Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (2023)

When there is a problem that interferes with the proper flow of work in an organization, such organization calls Business Analysts to formulate a problem statement.

Writing a problem statement should help in careful decision-making for project approval. Often, the problem statement will serve as the basis for the introductory section of a final proposal, directing the reader's attention to the issues that your proposed project will address.

The ultimate goal of a statement of the problem is to transform a generalized problem into one that can be resolved through careful decision-making. More so, it should address a gap in knowledge of the organization, explain the effects and financial implications of the problem.

From the statement of problems, customers and stakeholders should know the problem, what measures and solutions to resolve them. The problem statement is said to be right if it fulfills the above criteria.

Defining the Problem Statement:

A problem should be established before declaring it in the form of a problem statement. Identifying a general problem is not as difficult as determining the actual problem. The human mind tends to start working immediately on a solution once the problem is found. The correct process is to identify the problem, to define the problem in detail, and then to design the solution. The weak definition of the problem is detrimental to solution implementation.

As mentioned, it is a personal job to formulate a problem statement, whereas it's a joint effort to define the problem. If one can comprehend all the actions concerned, a problem can be correctly described. How do they all work? How is it affecting everyone?

Take, for instance, a beverage manufacturing company that makes carbonated water in glass bottles. Due to some reasons, the company management claims that there are at least 50 glass bottle breakages per shift in the plant (three shifts per day), during the filling and sealing process of carbonated water.

The first step is to define the problem. The following questions are to be answered to determine the problem.

  • Where does this occur?

- During the whole process, the bottles ruptured when the bottles were filled and sealed.

  • When did it happen?

-The rupture occurs randomly without a specific moment.

  • How does it work?

-The bottles that are used after filling and when clamped are blasted.

  • What is the course?

-The issue must be with the pressure or the temperature since the bottles were blasting.

  • Who is causing the problem?

-The problem has to be the quality of the bottle or the sealing machine, causing stress.

  • Why does it happen?

-The used bottles cannot resist pressure when the bottles are sealed.

Generally, 5 Whys analysis is the most commonly used tool for finding the exact problem.

Problem statement acts as a driving factor in many projects including Lean Six Sigma Projects. A Lean Six Sigma project involves the following steps:

(Video) How to craft a Lean Six Sigma Problem Statement






The five phases of the project are interconnected, following the waterfall model.

The Waterfall model is segmented into different stages of a project. Each phase relies on the results from the earlier process. As mentioned above, the driving force of a project is the problem statement.


Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (1)

At this stage, the problem is defined. The defined problem is framed in the form of a declaration called the problem statement. Consider the drink manufacturer mentioned earlier. The organization has a problem, and it was cited. Now, let's see how the problem statement looks;

"The company's packing process should aim to reduce bottle disintegration for the process to be smooth and efficient."


Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (2)

The next step in action is measuring the current performance or process. At this point, the problem mentioned earlier is quantified by:

  • Measuring the ongoing processor performance.
  • Identifying the units of measurement.
  • Develop the data collection plan.
  • Describe the problem based on data collected.

The problem statement made at the "define" stage is the basis for all of these measurements.

"There is a daily average of 150 broken bottles in the plant. The cleaning and replacement costs for a broken bottle are Rs.5.00. The total bottle spending per month is Rs.22,500 and Rs.270,000 per year.”

(Video) Lean Problem Solving: Defining the Problem


Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (3)

The problem statement clearly shows that the problem is that the bottles are broken. Thus, in the context of analysis, various techniques and instruments have been used to identify the exact problem which causes the breakage of bottles. The "Analyse" stage is aimed at identifying the problem.

"The problem may be the quality of the bottles, variations in the pressure during the filling and sealing, the shape and quality of the bottle caps, and changes in the process temperature."


Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (4)

We now know the cause of the problem and the actual problem. The next step is the "improve" phase. Here, the implementation and verification of the solution occur.

"After all problem factors are determined by the impact they have had in the decreasing order, and solutions have been found to remove them."


Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (5)

The next is the "control" phase.

(Video) Easy hack to create an awesome Lean Six Sigma DMAIC problem statement

The purpose of the six sigma control stage is to verify that the solution implemented at the "improve" phase is adequate; using various tools.

"To keep up the solutions that have been implemented in the "improve" phase and check whether they eliminate or reduce the problem factors."

Lean means waste disposal, on the other hand. A total of seven kinds of waste are categorized using the acronym TIMWOOD.

They are:

T- Transportation

I - Inventory

M- Motion

W- Waiting

O- Over Processing

O- Over Production

D- Defects

In Lean Six Sigma, a problem statement is of great importance when it emphasizes the disposal of waste. If a problem statement is misleading, the whole DMAIC method leads to over-processing and faults. And this makes no meaning for lean six sigma. Therefore, the most crucial thing in the entire project is the problem statement.

In any industry, it is regarded as a project when implementing Six Sigma or Lean Six sigma. There will be a problem in any project; hence, the project must start to find a solution. Implementation of Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma on its own could be a project. Many factors can be involved in the success or failure of a project. Method, engagement, and interpretation of the problem statement can be the significant factors.

Let us discuss the whole process using a geometric image.

Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (6)

(Video) Writing an effective Problem Statement

"Current state" means the same as the organization process, "intermediate states" are the solutions available to overcome the existing problem and helping to reach the "desired level."

Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (7)

We know that the driving factor in a project is the problem statement, and DMAIC is entirely driven by the problem statement in the define phase. So, if a problem statement is explicitly formulated, this is how the project works and helps to achieve the desired state.

Now, let's see the project flow if the statement of the problem is inappropriate.

Importance of Problem Statement in Lean Six Sigma (8)

From the figure above, it is evident that we don't know where to go and what to do next. We realize at that point that the total efforts are a waste and should restart the process, leading to a waste of effort, time, and over-processing. Therefore for a project to be completed in due course and meeting the requirements, the problem statement has to be appropriate.

How to identify a problem statement

  • It should neither be a statement of the Vision and Mission of the companynor any philosophy.
  • A problem statement should be brief and clear.
  • A problem statement should be specific and measurable.
  • The context must always be made clear.

To wrap it up

A problem statement describes the problem faced by an organization and also identifies what the solution would look like. It can also establish a foundation for building compelling business cases and proving the necessity for specific projects.


What is the importance of the problem statement? ›

The purpose of the problem statement is to identify the issue that is a concern and focus it in a way that allows it to be studied in a systematic way. It defines the problem and proposes a way to research a solution, or demonstrates why further information is needed in order for a solution to become possible.

What is problem statement for Lean Six Sigma? ›

A Six Sigma problem statement should be concise, specific, and fact-based. General and/or long-winded statements won't focus on the key issue, and anything not backed up by verifiable data is opinion, prone to bias, and able to misdirect an investigation. Problem statements should focus on a single issue.

Why it is important to have a clear statement of a problem? ›

Importance of a problem statement

A problem statement is important to a process improvement project because it helps clearly identify the goals of the project and outline the scope of a project. It also helps guide the activities and decisions of the people who are working on the project.

What are the 3 important aims of a problem statement? ›

Problem statements often have three elements: the problem itself, stated clearly and with enough contextual detail to establish why it is important; the method of solving the problem, often stated as a claim or a working thesis; the purpose, statement of objective and scope of the document the writer is preparing.

Which Six Sigma phase is responsible for problem statement? ›

The Define phase (DMAIC) is the first phase of Six Sigma improvement process, and it is critical to Six Sigma's success. As the name indicates, Define is about describing the problem and setting the project goal.

What should a problem statement answer? ›

A problem statement is a short, clear explanation of an issue or challenge that sums up what you want to change. It helps you, team members, and other stakeholders to focus on the problem, why it's important, and who it impacts.

How do you explain a problem statement example? ›

For instance, consider the following example of a problem statement: Employee turnover rate is up by 60% with most of them leaving due to lack of support for growth opportunities. To retain top talent, we need to invest in quality training and development initiatives.

What are the 4 things your problem statement should include? ›

There are a few key elements to keep in mind when crafting a problem statement that can have a positive impact on the outcome of the project.
  • Describe how things should work.
  • Explain the problem and state why it matters.
  • Explain your problem's financial costs.
  • Back up your claims.
  • Propose a solution.
Feb 25, 2020

What are the 5 elements of a problem statement? ›

A decent Problem Statement should have 5 essential elements:
  • Importance.
  • Problem–Solution Gap.
  • Quantification.
  • Neutrality.
  • Scope.
May 11, 2022

What does a problem statement define overall? ›

What does a problem statement define, overall? what success for the project looks like. the tasks involved in solving the problem.

Why is the 6 steps of problem solving process important? ›

The Six-Step method provides a focused procedure for the problem solving (PS) group. techniques on the same issue. It makes the decision making process easier. It provides a justifiable solution.

What is problem statement for process improvement? ›

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”.

What are problem solving techniques in Six Sigma? ›

The DMAIC problem-solving method is a roadmap that can be used for any projects or quality improvements that need to be made. The term DMAIC stands for the five main steps in the process: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Define: It is important in Six Sigma to define the problem or project goals.

What is a good problem statement structure? ›

One popular problem statement template is organized into four sections: Ideal, Reality, Consequences, and Proposal. Ideal: Concisely states the desired outcome; in other words, how things should be once a solution is implemented. Reality: Identifies the problem as your current reality.

What is a benefit of giving a clear statement? ›

Which of the following is a benefit of giving a clear statement of the business problem or challenge when starting a report? It helps establish the purpose and value of the report.

Why is important that there is a clear statement of the aims of the research? ›

First, it gets the reader excited about the project by telling them its aim and its objective. Second, because it tells everything in a single sentence, it can afford to gloss over uncertainties, helping the reader to form a positive view of the project.

What is clear statement of the problem in research? ›

Answer: A statement of a problem is a brief, clear, and precise explanation of an issue that the researcher wants to study. It includes a vision, issue statement, and proposed method to solve the problem. The 5 'W's - Who, What, Where, When and Why - can be used to define a problem statement.

What is clear statement purpose? ›

A purpose statement is a declarative sentence which summarizes the specific topic and goals of a document. It is typically included in the introduction to give the reader an accurate, concrete understanding what the document will cover and what he/she can gain from reading it.


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