Problem Statement

Summarizing the Who, What, When/Where, and Why of the Problem

The problem statement is a concise description of the issue that needs to be addressed. In process improvement, defining the problem is a critical step in solving the problem. As the saying goes, “a well-defined problem, is a half-solved problem”.

Problem Statement

A good problem statement can serve as the main touchstone for a project team as they undertake any improvement effort. The problem statement helps to create a shared need by clearly explaining what the problem is, where the problem is occurring, who is impacted by the problem, and why the problem needs to be addressed.


Regarding process improvement, defining the problem from the business’s and the customer’s perspective is often one of the first steps in the project. The problem statement helps to establish the project’s key focus and set the parameters for the project scope. This perspective can support the selection of the right project team expertise, while giving clear direction to that team on where to target their improvement efforts.


As the team gets started in their improvement efforts, it is important to note that the problem statement is meant to guide the team, not confine it. As the team conducts further exploration of the problem, and as a result, gains new learning, it is important that the team revisits the problem statement and updates it accordingly. It is through this iterative process that the team verifies that they are working on the right problem across the entirety of the project.

As stated above, the problem statement often serves as the starting point for the project team. Helping to align their efforts and motivate them to solve the problem on the customer’s behalf. To learn more about creating a problem statement, please refer to the following summary video. If you are ready to start applying problem statements to your projects, then consider downloading the problem statement template provided below.

Downloadable Problem Statement Template

Download the Free "Design Challenge Statement" Template (PDF)

Purchase the template to customize for your own organization

All of our tools and templates are available in Word or PowerPoint format to allow organizations to purchase and customize the templates to their brand standards.

Creating clarity around the problem that needs to be solved is a critical first step for any project. If you would like to advance your skills in helping project teams to not only articulate the problem, but to gain traction on actually solving the problem, please consider participating in our Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certification Course.

Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Training, continuous improvement certifications

The primary role of the Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt is to act as the organization’s eyes and ears, helping to detect when an opportunity might exist for the organization to improve.


The Yellow Belt leads local-level improvement efforts that are considered “low hanging fruit” projects – meaning the project complexity is low and that the project can be completed with minimal data and on a short timeline of 60-90 days. The Yellow Belt’s primary focus is to reduce process waste, making processes easier to perform and more efficient.

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