Identifying op­por­tu­ni­ties

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.

Brief problem statement infographic

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
  • Solutions
  • Hypotheses
  • 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.

Types of problem infographic Types of problem infographic

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