LeanCoach . Define – Problem definition

Peter Matthijssen & Jan-Jaap Elskamp
Posted by Peter Matthijssen & Jan-Jaap Elskamp on Oct 23, 2012

Lean Management

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After beginning with the Define - Project start phase, let's move to the next one.

What is the define problem definition phase?

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Improvement projects focus on solving a problem. A problem occurs when an actual situation and the desired situation don’t match. We define the problem in a problem statement. It is imperative that this statement describes the problem in a concrete way for the different people involved in and around the project.

DMAIC in the LeanCoach

Getting started with the define problem definition phase

  1. Determine who is involved in the problem and formulate questions.
  2. Determine the problem definition in concept.
  3. Check the problem definition with the people involved.
  4. Use the feedback to determine the final problem definition.

The problem definition covers the next questions:  

  • Why is there a need to run an improvement project? 
  • For which problems are we trying to find a solution?
  • Who are the people involved in the outcome of the improvement project? 
  • What is the significance of the problem? 
  • What do we want to achieve?

Tips and best practices define problem definition phase

  • Determining a problem definition doesn’t always turn out to be as simple as it seems. Take your time. Creating a good problem definition saves time later on. 
  • A good problem definition contains a problem owner, a verb and a target area. 
  • A problem can contain multiple problems. In this case, there are some choices that have to be made. Don’t try and solve everything in one go, but instead take small steps.
  • Filling out the Project Start information is typically done by the project leader (green/black belt). The following Define techniques (problem statement, team, stakeholders), involve a larger group of people.
  • Make sure that the Project Start information and problem statement is communicated to the sponsor. The sponsor is responsible for the project’s means and time available.


Do you want to get started with Lean? Try using BiZZdesign LeanCoach. It’s free until 31 January 2014! More information and downloads: www.bizzdesign.com/lean 

View of the problem definition

Next week in this LeanCoach blog series: Define – Project team.

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