Solving The Problems

Solving The Problems-49
We either come up with a quick solution or use a strategy that worked in the past.

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Though many factors contribute to a project’s failure, nothing is more certain to cause a project to fail than a misunderstanding of the problem you are solving.

In the example above, we recognized too late that the real problem we should have been solving was not “travelers want to hang out with other travelers”, but instead, “travelers want to find high quality non-touristy things to do.” Hanging out with other travelers is one solution to this, not the actual problem.

There are infinite problems to tackle — your goal is to feel confident that this problem is worth your team’s time right now. This is where you take a shot at describing the solution to the problem.

A few tips for this step: In the end it’ll be judgement call amongst many tradeoffs. Depending on the way your team operates, and how much is already known, this can be very high level or very detailed.

Before you dive into design or engineering, go through the following steps to set your project up for success. You can also use this handy 1-Pager template (copy it here).

I find it most effective if a single person takes the first pass (usually the PM, but doesn’t have to be). This is just a brief description of what you’re thinking, so that folks reading this doc can quickly grok what this project is all about. The problem statement itself is foundational so spend extra time there. What do you believe the problem you are solving is, and why? Key attributes of a strong problem statement include: This is where you collect evidence backing up your problem statement, aka hypothesis.

Your job is to make the best case you can with the data you have. Answer that question and write it down in this section. In my experience the key here is aligning with your designer(s) to figure out how much detail they want and what would be most helpful in the process. The larger and more complex the project, them more likely they are different.

Continue refining the problem statement as you learn more. This criteria becomes incredibly important throughout the project because it helps you make decisions and prioritize. Have you ever seen those Chipotle billboards along the highway (pictured below)? Everyone on your team has a unique version of the problem in their heads. Your job is to eradicate this misalignment early and often.

Avoid this trap with a few good habits:“Problems are constant in life.

When you solve your health problem by buying a gym membership, you create new problems, like having to get up early to get to the gym on time, sweating like a meth-head for thirty minutes on an elliptical, and then getting showered and changed for work so you don’t stink up the whole office.


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