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Introduction to the A3                                                               Page 4

Here are some examples of Cause Statements and the same statements as Problem Statements
     Cause Statement: Illegal immigration is a real problem because it increases our crime rate.
     Problem Statement: Our crime rate is too high, and this threatens our safety and our standard of living.
     Cause Statement: Illegal immigration must be dealt with because it makes us susceptible to terrorist attacks.
     Problem Statement: Terrorist attacks claim the lives of thousands and this puts all of us at risk and affects our standard of living.
    Cause Statement: Joe backed into a car with a forklift because he didn’t have a spotter.
    Problem Statement: We have several employees which operate large equipment in hazardous conditions and they have had several minor accidents which could have resulted in severe or fatal injury.
    Cause Statement: We don’t have enough manpower and will finish late.
    Problem Statement: We are not going to finish the project on time or on budget based on our current production rates. 

The cause statements above all have something in common. They contain one of the potential causes of the problem in the problem statement. You will identify the causes in step 2. For now, just define the problem, leave the causes out of the statement. If you don’t, you will tend to only focus on one cause, the one identified in the problem statement. This is limiting, and you might actually find that you are spending your time addressing a something which is not the real root cause of the problem.


First, let’s define the problem. Putting all the information needed to analyze, develop and communicate a problem and its solution onto a single piece of 11 x 17 paper seems like an impossible task. Especially when it all must be written so that everyone can read it while it is posted on a wall. The problem statement is a key to accomplishing this.  If you get point A wrong, the problem, then all assumptions made to get to the solution may also be incorrect and, so too, the solution.
It seems obvious that we must define the problem. However, very often we begin problem solving discussions without doing that very thing. Let me use an example that seems to be very prominent in America today. The issue of illegal immigration. Everyone seems to have a very strong opinion about this issue and I do not want to express opinions here. I think this is a good example because we are discussing how to address this “problem.” The point here is that there is very little discussion defining the problem. In other words, there are statements such as “There is too much illegal immigration” or “We have to stop illegal immigration”. As I hear these statements, I often have two thoughts, 1. I accept the premise that there is illegal immigration.  And 2. What is the problem that there is illegal immigration?  I ask this question when the discussion comes up and I often hear a variety of answers that boil down to three categories:  1. It causes a loss of jobs for America citizens 2. It increases our crime rates 3. It allows acts of terror.  I am not attempting to express an opinion, simply explaining the opinions I have heard most prominently. All three of these are a step in the right direction. In other words, if we were going to address this issue then we would not address the issue of illegal immigration, because that is not a defined problem. What we could address is the actual defined problems and do that one at a time. For example: Lets take the first one. It causes a loss of Jobs for American Citizens. An example of the defined problem statement for this issue would be: America is facing a high unemployment rate and this leads to economic decline. That is a problem. The starting problem statement of “illegal immigration” is not a problem statement at all, it is a fact or cause statement. In other words, it is not defining a problem it is stating either a fact or pointing out a possible cause of a problem. We frequently make this error and have a complete analysis of a “problem” without actually defining the problem.  Now that we have a problem defined, we would start on the second step, which is to define the current condition, which I will discuss in more detail in a moment.