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Problem Formulation/problem Situation Questionnaire

| On 01, Jan 2010

Message: 1533
Posted by: Valentino Birolini
Posted on: Sunday, 11th January 2009

where i can find articles about the story of problem formulation? or where i can find different kind of problem situation questionnaire and their evolution in the story course?

Message: 1534
Posted by: Pentti Sšderlin
Posted on: Tuesday, 13th January 2009

Valentino, see my article in T-J: Thoughts on ARIZ, There are some quides how to approach different problems.

Message: 1544
Posted by: Thorbjoern Mann
Posted on: Tuesday, 20th January 2009

I am not sure whether your question is about a history of problem formulation, or about finding useful tools (questionnaires) for problem formulation. For the former, you may find an old article by H. Rittel and M. Webber useful “Dilemmas in A General Theory of Planning”. It describes, among other things, “Wicked Problems”. For the latter, I may find what amounts to a 'questionnaire' about problem formulation and description in my old teaching notes, which I can send you if you are interested.>

Message: 1546
Posted by: Valentino Birolini
Posted on: Wednesday, 21st January 2009

I am interested in both. Could you kindly send me some questionnaires that mentions?how can i give you my e-mail address?

Message: 1547
Posted by: Thorbjoern Mann
Posted on: Thursday, 22nd January 2009

Here is the url for the Rittel / Webber article, you can download it as HTML or PDF. I'll dig out my notes on problem description (they are fairly commonsense) in a followup. You can send me your email address to my address>.

Message: 1548
Posted by: Thorbjoern Mann
Posted on: Thursday, 22nd January 2009

VAlentino:I haven't heard from you so I'm posting these lotes on the network.

Problem analysis: What do we mean by Ôunderstanding a problem’?

Analyzing a problem means trying to gain an understanding of the problem — even including at least some potential solutions. Specifically, problem analysis involves the following:

Problem statementA statement of the discrepancy or question that must be answered. Often 'stating the problem clearly' is suggested as the first step in a problem-solving effort. In reality, an acceptable problem statement is usually possible after considerable work trying to describe, explain, solve, restate, re-explain it, etc.: it is the result of the problem analysis, not its starting point.

Problem descriptionThe well-known journalistic reporting “W-rules”:

– What is going on? (Activities, events?)- Where is it? (Location?)- Who is involved? Who 'has' the problem? Affected parties? (Who is suffering?Complaining?- Why?- When ? etc.,

these can serve as starting point for a problem description. In addition, we might wish to know something about

– the Background of the problem: its history, how it arose, what if anything may have been done about it already, and what happened to those efforts;- Related problems;- Current expectations regarding the problem?- Significance, severity, worthwhileness.; and last not least:- Symptoms: how do we know the problem exists?

Problem explanationThere are two sides to the question of problem explanation, relating closely to the two parts of the IS and the OUGHT of the problem. The first part of a problem explanation is the task of accounting for how the IS- state came about:- Causes; cause-and-effect sequences- Necessary conditions for the problem to exist;- Contributing factors (that do not necessarily cause the problem but make it worse when it occurs).

The second task might be called 'justification' (of the OUGHT part, shedding light on the reasons why somebody considers the IS – situation undesirable and the OUGHT desirable. This could involve discussion of the goals and objectives of the affected parties, that are jeopardized or thwarted by the problem; their needs that are not being met. Or it could involve discussion of the undesirable consequences that are expected to occur if the problem situation is allowed to persist.

Other helpful questions in understanding the problem might be: what are the key issues, the essential variables; the crucial constraints; the driving forces behind the problem?

Level of problem Another dimension of problem understanding is the understanding of how a problem can be described and explained at different levels: It could be discussed in terms of increasingly specific detail: “doorknobbing”. The term refers to the tendency to delay coming forward with a solution (e.g. for a door) until the various parts have been studied and resolved,– the doorknob. This, in turn cannot be settled until all available doorknob materials have been analyzed, their composition, production conditions, and so on. Going in the opposite direction, the door design cannot be settled until the wall in which it will sit has been analyzed; all wall or partition variations and alternatives evaluated. This, in turn is not really possible unless one also considers the floor and ceiling, and of course, the structure…

A less flippant example is that of crime, especially juvenile crime: is it a matter of circumstance, is the victim to blame for being too careless? Is the level of police protection inadequate? Should the number of police patrols be increased? Or is it a matter of lacking parental supervision? Which, in turn, is of course related to economic conditions. Or should we blame TV, the schools, the judicial system? At one time or another, the problem has been presented as 'essentially' related to one or several of these.

I Hope these are helphul starting considerations.BestThorbjoern Mann

Message: 1549
Posted by: valentino birolini
Posted on: Thursday, 22nd January 2009

sorry, but i can't see your e-mail address from your post… i see only the last part “” but i don't see the first part….however my e-mail address is “vbirolini at”

thank you so much!!

Message: 1550
Posted by: Pentti Sšderlin
Posted on: Friday, 23rd January 2009


there is a good book: The Rational Manager by Kepner-Tregoe. I will recomment this to you.

There are four analysis: The Situation Analysis, The Problem Analsyis, the Decision Analysis and the Potential Problem Analysis.

I think Thorbjoern tried to describe these to you, too.

Message: 1551
Posted by: Thorbjoern Mann
Posted on: Friday, 23rd January 2009

VAlentino,I don't know why the site does these things to the email addresses — why put anything on there if it's not complete? Meanwhile, I posted my answers, such as they are, on the site.Best Thorbjoern Mannthormann at