Problem Statements

Understand problems in a people-centered way before generating solutions

Problems Statements are structured ways to help frame up problems from our target user’s perspective (whether that's a consumer or a stakeholder). Use this activity to ensure that the team is being empathetic to your target users so you can build solutions that address their needs.

Examples of where this might be helpful: Getting into the lives of your stakeholder or consumer to give collaborating teams have a unified focus on the “right” problems to solve for, clarifying individual viewpoints in mentoring or managing relationships, visualizing how various teams or departments experience the same problems differently for cross-departmental or community work.


Review User Research

If you already have research, have your team* review and re-ground themselves in the user data prior to your work session. You can send the Problem Statements Worksheet or video to your team ahead of your meeting so they have a good sense of what you'll be working on as a group.

*While more dynamic as a team, note that this activity can also be done solo.  The same basic steps apply.


Ground Yourself in the User

Review the topic and goals of your time together. Identify whose needs your team will be seeking to examine.

Generate Problem Statements

Have everyone on the team try to step into the perspective of the target stakeholder. Take a moment to consider: What are they trying to do? What barriers keep them from accomplishing that? Why do those barriers exist? How does that person currently feel? Have all participants capture problem statements in the template provided or on stickie notes or note cards if in the same room. It is important to have them placed in a grid so they can be viewed and compared all together, a wall, a table, a virtual whiteboard or the template provided will work.

Reflect on the Problem Statements

Have the team reflect on the problem statements generated by all the team members. Notice the similarities or differences in the problem statements and explore why those patterns have emerged.

Reframe the Problem

Based on the team's problem statements, prioritize the most important ones and incorporate them into project or work effort.


Determine Next Steps

Discuss next steps as a team (e.g., more research needed, current state storyboard creation, opportunities for brainstorming)

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