What's the Problem?

In principle, more often than not, a group will develop a great solution to the wrong problem. Before proceeding with a solution we need to see that it is aimed squarely at the problem and to do that we need to bring the problem into focus. Taking time to define the problem may seem like “unnecessary process” in the short term, but can save huge amounts of time and energy over the long run. Defining the problem as a group also checks our shared expectations. It helps me decide, “Is this something in which I want to participate?”

Practical Tip: Before discussing solutions, discuss the problem. What are you trying to fix? What is the specific scope of the problem that you are willing to take on? How would you know if the problem was fixed? Are you the right group to fix it?

On paper, write something like, “The problem is that _____________.” It could be a sentence or it could be a paragraph. Refrain from discussing solutions until you have agreement on the problem statement. Make sure that all those working on the problem are aware of the written problem statement and agree with it. Before firing off solutions, make sure the problem is in focus.

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