Learning how to write a problem statement is an essential step in the problem-solving process. Professionals who can identify, analyze, and solve problems get to practice their critical thinking skills, which is a valuable asset to any company. This is why if you know how to write a problem statement, many companies would be willing to give you challenging projects and opportunities to grow your career.
Whether you want to acquire or simply improve your skills in writing a problem statement, this article can be your guide. You’ll find out the elements and get tips on how to write a problem statement. We also included problem statement examples that you can use as templates for your first try.
What Is a Problem Statement?
A problem statement is a brief description of a situation or an issue that calls for action to improve the state of a business or organization. A problem statement identifies the shortcomings of a business or project. Plus, it proposes possible solutions that can drive the business to achieve its desired result.
Good decision-making and well-thought-out plans usually begin with an effective problem statement. A problem statement provides insights and enables people to come up with process improvement strategies to ensure that the organization achieves its objectives. These improvement strategies entail devoting some time to the planning phase so that you can analyze the problem and create a practical solution.
Apart from business cases, a problem statement can also be used in academic writing. A problem statement is part of a thesis statement, which captures the focus of an entire research paper. However, our main focus in this article will be the use of a problem statement in a business setting.
What Are the 5 Elements of a Problem Statement?
- The ideal situation. This paints a picture of the vision or desired outcome of the business. It highlights how the business would operate if the problem were absent. Letting people know of the ideal situation gives more perspective as to why it’s imperative to resolve the problem.
- The problem or reality. A problem statement must mention the source of difficulty by putting the problem into context. It should clearly show where the gaps are between the ideal situation and the current reality. This element pinpoints the causes of the setback and lays the foundation for a feasible ideal solution.
- The consequences. Your problem statement should follow a cause-effect pattern. So, once you identify the problem, you should detail its impact and consequences. Explain the exact loss it caused to the organization in terms of profit, cost, time, reputation, productivity, and other factors.
- The potential solution(s). This element identifies viable solutions to the problem. It may propose more than one solution to direct the project team on how to approach the problem. A problem statement without this element cannot fulfill its purpose because although it sets the premise for a change, it fails to give a sense of direction.
- The result. This element outlines the desired outcome of a project. In this section, you should reveal the intended result of your proposed solution. This will help your organization visualize what the future of the business would look like after the problem is resolved.
How to Write a Problem Statement: Beginning and Ending
A problem statement doesn’t only reflect your problem-solving skills, it also enhances your communication skills, which are both great skills to add to your credentials. It’s a communication tool that involves a great deal of research and articulation to convey your thoughts properly. The tips below will give you a grasp of how to begin and end a strong problem statement.
How to Begin a Problem Statement
First, describe the ideal situation to give an adequate context. This will help the reader to understand the basis of your problem statement. Then, state the problem you intend to solve and highlight its impact on the organization. You must communicate the problem clearly and succinctly, and state the losses the organization has suffered due to the problem. This gives a deeper understanding of why and how urgently the problem needs to be addressed.
How to End a Problem Statement
Propose possible solutions and explain why and how they will be effective. Ask yourself, “Will the solution help the company achieve its business goals?”. Conclude by providing a concise summary of your main argument or the central idea being emphasized in your problem statement. It’s how your proposed set of ideas aims to solve underlying problems and help the company achieve its ultimate goal.
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How to Write a Problem Statement: 5 More Useful Tips
Ascertain the Context of the Problem
The best approach to problem-solving is to tackle the problem at its roots. This is what we mean by identifying the context of the problem. This enables you to quantify and qualify the impact of the problem and identify what areas are directly affected. If it’s a business challenge, a variable to consider is whether or not it’s a regular problem, such as one that impacts everyday sales or profit.
It Must Be Persuasive
A problem statement, like every workplace writing, should be persuasive to get approval from stakeholders and compelling to get the project team to take action. It must emphasize the problem and its impact in contrast with the company’s ideal vision. A persuasive problem statement uses facts, statistics, and rhetorics to compel the team to understand the situation and take action.
Address the Five “Ws”
Remember that your problem statement needs to inform just as much as it persuades the team or individual reader. The five W’s (who, what, where, when, why, plus how) are questions that must be core to your proposal, so you must integrate them into your problem statement. They give the reader a preview of your proposal without being overwhelmed by additional details.
A problem statement should be written concisely, which is one of the principles of writing a proposal or any formal writing. Avoid adding irrelevant information, and simple and clear terms to ensure that your audience gets the message as intended. Your problem statement should be informative yet concise, dealing only with the bare essentials of the proposal.
Use a Formal Tone
When writing a problem statement, you should use a formal voice and avoid casual tones. Steer clear of idioms and slang. Problem statements are most often used in formal settings, so try to keep them formal, as you address the issue at hand.
Problem Statement Examples to Help You Solve Business Needs
Problem statements may vary in length, depending on the complexity of the problem being addressed. However, they usually follow an established pattern through problem statement templates. Below are effective problem statement examples for different business needs that you can use for reference.
Problem Statement Example 1: Prioritizing Customer Satisfaction to Improve Brand Value and Profit
The food service at Spicy Treats should be more attentive to customers’ needs and swift in delivering orders. This will ensure a smooth-running restaurant and enable customers to get to their daily activities without undue delay.
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However, Spicy Treats’ current customer service is inefficient because it prioritizes microwaved frozen food over freshly cooked food. The microwaves are also insufficient compared to the number of customers that walk in daily. This contributes to inefficient use of time and makes the restaurant a less competitive brand in the eyes of locals.
On average, customers have to wait for roughly 20 minutes after placing an order, resulting in a loss of some customers who can’t stand the wait. Consequently, there has been a drop in the restaurant’s monthly revenue from $105,000 to $87,000, which according to restaurant industry statistics, is way below average. This represents an average loss of $600 per day.
The restaurant should replace frozen foods with fresh foods, as they are much tastier. It should employ more workers to hasten the cooking process, or purchase more microwaves, depending on consumer preference. This will eliminate the 20 minutes of waiting time for customers. Spicy Treats should also consider make-ahead meals, which have proven to be a great resource for time management at restaurants.
Spicy Treats would record a colossal benefit from this change, as it would improve customer satisfaction. Plus, its monthly revenue would skyrocket to an average of $140,000 with a surplus of over $30,000, which can be channeled to the yearly savings account for opening another branch.
Adoption of new protocols is essential for the business to continue to thrive as a locally-recognized brand. In this proposal, the shortcomings of Spicy Treats restaurant are analyzed and recommendations are given to improve the restaurant’s image and service efficiency to positively affect its revenue stream.
Problem Statement Example 2: Preservation of Perishable Goods to Prevent Losses
Being a supplier of agricultural produce to hundreds of retailers across the US, Greenfields Farms should have a constant effective supply chain to retain its position as one of the country’s top suppliers. Unfortunately, the company constantly suffers huge losses, as it has limited storage facilities and most of its goods are perishable, thereby posing the challenge of preservation.
Also, there has been a steep decline in the demand for these goods, which further aggravates the preservation factor. This problem causes the company to lose over a hundred tons of vegetable produce worth about $23,000 weekly. Consequently, the company is running low on profit and is on the verge of laying off some employees to reduce its expenses and remain in the market.
The company should set up more ultra-modern storage facilities in different locations to ease the preservation and transportation of perishable goods. It should also switch to organic farming to trigger demand. Greenfields Farms’ marketing efforts will be duly rewarded if these measures are adopted. The company will experience a rise in sales and profit, and its vision of becoming the largest supplier of agricultural produce will be all the more feasible.
Greenfields Farms must implement these strategies to have a competitive advantage in the agricultural space. This proposal identifies the challenges facing the business and the steps to be implemented to address these problems.
How to Use Problem Statement Examples to Write Your Own
Notice how each problem statement example above follows the prescribed pattern. Ensure to highlight the ideal situation, identify the problem and its impact, and propose a compelling solution, clearly stating the benefits. Also, use facts and statistics to support your assertions. Your problem statement should be targeted at solving a specific need and should provide a general direction to get the project team on track.
How to Write a Problem Statement FAQ
No, a problem statement is not the same as a research hypothesis. While a problem statement identifies a problem and suggests effective solutions, a hypothesis is a predictive statement that raises a research question and proposes the expected outcome of the study.
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A problem statement provides a context for your research or business proposal. It identifies the gap between the current situation and the ideal or desired situation. A problem statement is an effective tool used to reveal a state of affairs that needs improvement. It highlights the problem that an organization faces and describes how it can be eliminated.
An ideal problem statement should not exceed a page. However, depending on the nature, scope, and complexity, a problem statement could be expressed in a few sentences, a couple of paragraphs, or even an entire page.
It’s expressed clearly in the introduction of your research paper or thesis, as the problem statement guides the scope of the research. It is a comprehensive summary of the issues that your paper seeks to address, hence it precedes the main body of the research.
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