The problem statement clearly defines, in a concise but comprehensive way, the key business problem that needs to be solved. Even though it’s called a problem “statement”, it’s usually in the form of a question.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Relevant, and Time-bound. A good problem statement should be all of those things. The challenge is to balance being thorough with being concise.
Some examples from problem statements that are not SMART:
– Not specific: “better manage the business…” – this is too generic and doesn’t suggest where the greatest impact might be, how, or by when to capture it.
– Not measurable: “reverse our deteriorating performance…” – without specifying what metrics best reflect “performance”, it’s impossible to assess whether or not we’ve made progress.
– Not action-oriented: “increase sales and decrease costs…” – while these are both appealing goals for any company, they have to be actionable to create impact.
– Not relevant: “increase profits by raising prices…” – this sounds good, but not if the client is selling a commodity that sells at market prices.
– Not time-bound: “eventually increase profits by 10%…” – a specific deadline is needed to motivate people to action, hold them accountable, and know if the project was successful.