Why do I do it?

People typically start solving problems before actually defining what it is they are trying to achieve. You know that something is not working the way you want, and you want a solution. Problem definition is used to establish a framework within which you can work to solve your problem.

Take a step back and define your problem first so that everyone is on the same page.

When do I do it?

Problem Definition fits in best at the beginning of your work. As early as possible.

How do I do it?

Problem Definition requires that you answer four questions and create one ‘how statement’ in a specific order. Get your team together in a space with a blank wall. Print out some posters (you can download the template I use below) or create headings on your wall like so:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Who has the problem?
  3. The HOW statement:
  4. What are the goals?
  5. What are the side-effects to be avoided?

Now use sticky notes or markers to record your responses. Sticky notes work best because they allow you to gather all opinions on the matter, filter accordingly and prioritise (particularly important for questions 4 and 5).

Start at the beginning and work in order; 1 to 5. This is really important. You are not allowed to jump ahead.

Once you’ve answered all the questions and the team members are on the same page photograph your outcomes (at minimum) and leave your problem definition in your space (if possible). This work will guide your investigations from now on.

What do I need?

  • You and/or your team
  • Wall or large desk
  • Sticky notes
  • Markers
  • Camera



What next?

More tools coming soon.

Download this tool.

This tool contains the instructions provided here and 5 posters with the questions you need to answer. Each poster includes further explanation and guidance regarding how to best answer the question. Enjoy.