Defining a Problem Statement
Defining the problem statement creates the foundation for the project to succeed. Starting with a solution-focused mindset leads to unvalidated assumptions and limits the creativity of the Product team. In our experience, we’ve found projects that skip or rush this stage fail to have a clear and unified vision of their unique value proposition.
A problem statement isn’t something that remains static throughout a product’s lifecycle. Rather, the problem statement should focus on the upcoming milestone.
During the Brief stage we recommend using the Lean UX Canvas Activity Kit item to align stakeholders on the problem statement. As part of the activity, you’ll be asked a series of questions relating to:
- The business problem
- Business outcomes
- User types
- User outcomes and benefits
- What’s the most important thing to learn first?
- What’s the least amount of work to learn the most important thing?
Well defined vs Ill-defined vs Wicked problems
Throughout this process, the goal should be to discover a well-defined problem. This means ensuring that there is a clear definition of the problem and the goal state. For example, being locked out of your house. In this example, the problem and the goal are well defined.
Avoid the trap of setting an ill-defined problem. That is where the goal and the means to reach a solution are to a large extent unknown. For example, ‘how do I get more users?’ We know that it’s possible to get more users, we just don’t have a hypothesis for how yet.
It is important to avoid aligning on a wicked problem. A wicked problem is something that can’t be solved. These problems have such a level of abstraction or complexity that they can never be totally solved. ‘How can we eradicate poverty globally?’ is an example of a wicked problem. Unfortunately, we may not ever have a solution for the problem.
The key artefact at the end of the Brief stage is a clear, achievable and well-defined problem statement.