Business Insights and Advice

Solving the right problem by understanding the problem.

These are wise words but, in my experience, most organisations don’t heed them when tackling projects. We have recently been engaged to solve a problem with executive KPI reporting.

The problem, as described to us, was that KPI reports were not accurate enough, were taking too long to produce and were hard to understand. Further, a proposed solution to implement a system to capture the data and report back up the executive team didn’t solve the problem.

So, we started to unpack the problem using a variety of techniques and applying rigour around understanding the actual problem, why is came about and the root causes.

The root causes come down to a few things that the proposed solution would not solve. They included:

Misunderstanding of financial terms so project managers made assumptions on what they meant.

Applying different business rules which meant the data had different meanings to people.

A culture of not wanting to report bad news so hiding or massaging the data.

The reporting process was very inefficient so people did not take the time to enter data properly. Here a new system would help.

Without this rigor, organisations miss opportunities, waste resources and end up pursuing projects that aren’t aligned with their strategies.

How many times have you seen a project go down one path only to realise in hindsight that it should have gone down another?

How many times have you seen a project deliver a breakthrough result only to find that it can’t be implemented or it addresses the wrong problem?


It is important, at the beginning, to take the time to hold Problem Definition Workshops, designed to ask the right questions of all stakeholders, so projects can tackle the right problems.

These workshops focus on:

Defining the problem that needs to be addressed.

Validating that the problem is real.

Specifying the benefits that will result from addressing the problem.

In summary, the main benefit is ensuring that the right problem is being solved.


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