Step-by-step guide on how to write a problem statement

June 09, 2022  •  Reading Time: 8 min.

The majority of businesses are created to solve consumer problems.

Companies therefore primarily depend on individuals and teams who can successfully assess challenges and suggest viable solutions. As a result, a problem statement can be viewed as the starting point for problem-solving in a business. The following components are required:

  • What exactly is the issue?
  • Who is impacted by the issue?
  • What are the effects or consequences of the problem?
  • What are the options for resolving the issue?

This is exactly your concern? Then continue reading! We’ve compiled a helpful framework for establishing a problem statement, as well as examples to back it up.

Female businessperson working on laptop in her remote office typing problem statement

What are problem statements?

A problem statement is a brief, concise description of an issue as well as a simultaneously proposed solution. Problem statements can be a very good way to define a problem and quickly communicate a resolution. They therefore not only define an urgent problem, but also lead to a proposal for a timely and effective solution.

Note: The proposition is completely objective, so you should always be able to support your problem statement with facts.

Freelancer working from home about to write a problem statement on his laptop

When is it required to write problem statements?

Companies, individual people, and other entities need problem statements to develop projects focused on improvement. Those are so-called improvement projects (like an enhancement in workplace environment or logistics for a global project, for example).

Note: A clear and concise problem statement is always required if you’d like to define a certain problem and develop possible solutions. Keep in mind that the problem statement is usually a stand-alone document.

What is the primary goal of a problem statement?

The problem should be described briefly yet thoroughly in the problem statement. This involves stating who is affected by the problem, where it happens, and why and when it should be resolved. Furthermore, the proposed solution and expected outcomes should be communicated.

Above all, this aids your counterparts in gaining an overarching idea of the issue.

Please keep in mind that (in most cases) the statement does not attempt to identify a final solution right away. It is rather a declaration that initiates the process by identifying the problem and staying open to continuous improvement.

Note: To help your team remain focused, a problem statement is typically referred to throughout the whole project.

Which aspects characterize a good problem statement?

An excellent problem statement:

  • Describes the situation in a concise but detailed way.
  • Gives the reader a comprehensive picture of what is going on.
  • Contains a clarification of expected outcomes and possible solutions.
  • Includes an explanation identifying the scope and objectives of the solution.

What should you pay attention to when writing problem statements?

One of the key elements in writing a problem statement is to specify who the problem impacts, what exactly this impact is, where the problem occurs, and why and when it needs to be rectified.

Busy office worker talking on phone and setting up a problem statement with the project's team

Proper steps to writing an effective problem statement

Now that we have clarified the essentials, let’s identify the most important steps in writing a good problem statement.

#1 Explain how things are supposed to work

  • Set the scene for the problem: It’s best to begin your problem statement by describing how a particular process is meant to work.

Tip: Don’t bring up the actual problem just yet but concisely describe the theoretical situation and how it would be possible to increase efficiency.

Example: Let’s imagine you work for an airline, and you’ve noticed how inefficiently boarding is handled. In this example, you may begin by sketching an ideal environment in which the boarding system is more efficient.

#2 Address the issue

  • Describe why the problem needs to be solved: This is about determining what the problem is, who it affects, and why it should be resolved.

Example: Let’s assume you’ve developed a smarter approach to expedite the boarding process. In this case, you could write, “The current system for boarding is an inefficient use of company resources and makes the company less competitive.”

#3 Describe your problem’s financial costs

  • Explain the problem’s cost to the decision makers: Quantify the financial cost in actual dollar amounts. What are the costs that will be incurred (or have already been incurred) if the problem is not resolved?

Tip: Be specific about how it prevents the company from making more money.

Example: “On average, the process currently wastes about five minutes per boarding session, resulting in a total of 25 lost labor hours per day for all flights. This equates to a loss of approximately $152,000 per year.”

#4 Support your arguments

  • Now you have to provide proof to support your claims: Conduct even more research and present those facts in your problem statement.

Tip: Cite your sources.

Example: You should always describe the cost of the problem and then explain how it was determined: “Based on internal performance tracking data, the current boarding system wastes about…”

#5 Make a proposal

  • The moment to propose actual solutions to the problem has arrived: Present well-thought-out approaches to the issue.

Example: Explain the gist of the new system you’ve devised: “The extra minutes can be eliminated by changing the boarding system so passengers enter the plane from the side rather than from back to front.”

Optimized boarding as example on how to write a problem statement

#6 Describe the advantages of your proposed solution

  • Now demonstrate why your solution will succeed: Concentrate on the approach’s efficiency and financial impact.

Tip: Focus on solid data and briefly describe an ideal scenario of how your solution will unlock revenue streams and perhaps even create intangible benefits for the business. Remember, it’s important to always stick to realistic approaches.

Example: “The adoption of this new boarding method will be extremely beneficial to the whole company. The anticipated annual savings, for example, might be allocated to other revenue streams like extending airplane service.”

#7 Summarize the issue and its resolution

  • To conclude your problem statement: Briefly state the problem and the reasons behind the issue again. At the very end, give a summarized argument of how exactly your approach could be the very best solution to the problem.

Example: “The company’s future competitiveness depends on optimizing current boarding methods and establishing more efficient operations. The aforementioned alternative approaches can now be tested for their feasibility and appropriate implementation steps may be initiated.”

Conclusion: How to write a problem statement in just a few sentences

As you can see, it is important to keep any type of problem statement short and concise. It is primarily a statement that launches the process by naming the initial problem. This means that it is first and foremost communicating what needs to change and then inspiring solutions.

We have some more tips for you on how to formulate a problem statement in just a few sentences:

  • Get started with a question (“How could we…?”) to aid in your preparation for a solution.
  • Keep it simple and explain the specifics in person or in another paper.
  • Give numbers and solid data in your problem statement.
  • Discuss it with your team to determine whether they’re on the same page.
  • Concentrate on a single issue at a time.

Are you a junior professional? Learn everything you need to know to get your career started in 2022! (This includes how to present your professional strengths in job interviews and how to prepare for your first day in your new position).

Relaxed male businessperson sitting in front of his laptop reviewing the problem statement he just wrote

How to write a problem statement – FAQ

What is an example of a problem statement?

The gap between a desired aim and the actual state of affairs is identified by a problem statement: “In order to strengthen communication and fulfill our objectives, we need to accelerate our response time by 30%.”

What is a good problem statement?

Since the problem statement serves as a communication tool, it must contain all the important information that is essential for decision-making in relation to the processes mentioned.

What are the 4 components of a problem statement?

Ideal situation ➜ reality ➜ consequences ➜ proposal.

How to write a problem statement in research?

In research, a problem statement is a claim that explains the research problem that a study is addressing.

What is the difference between a problem statement and a thesis statement?

A problem statement focuses on the specific issue you’ve identified and aim to address through your research. A thesis statement in academic writing gives a statement for debate. A good thesis statement expresses both the problem and the solution in as few words as feasible.