Defining the problem

Defining the problem

In almost every problem solving methodology the first step is defining or identifying the problem. It is the most difficult and the most important of all the steps. It involves diagnosing the situation so that the focus on the real problem and not on its symptoms.

For example, fear of speaking in public only becomes a problem when your job is dependent on public speaking.

Frequently finding or identifying a problem is more important than the solution. For example, Galileo recognised the problem of needing to know the speed of light, but did not come up with a solution. It took advances in mathematics and science to solve this measurement problem. Yet Galileo still received credit for finding the problem. Sometimes problem definition may be nothing more than the art of asking the right questions at the right time.

Identifying the problem:

Instructors at a large university do not show up for technology training sessions. What do you think is the problem? 

  • The time frame for the training sessions does not meet the instructors' schedules.
  • There is no reward for investing time in training sessions.
  • The notifications for the training are sent in bulk mailings to all email accounts.

Any and all options could be correct, However, these different options will define the problem as either one of time, one of rewards or one of ignorance.

A better definition of the problem:

Instructors who teach online are required to use certain technologies but have not received training in these technologies despite the fact that training is offered on various days of the week and at multiple times during the day. In this case the problem might be defined as:

  • Lack of motivation - No, they are required to attend this training.
  • Lack of reward - No, their reward is their position as an online instructor.
  • Lack of notification - Aha!, this might be part of the problem and requires some investigation.