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Clearly define problems to reach best solutions

01 Jun, 2020 Annual communication plans, Communication campaigns, PR planning, strategy, budgeting

A crucial skill in communication and in business generally is being able to clearly define problems or opportunities before you act. This skill is harder and more important than it might appear.

Experts from the MIT Sloan School of Management say being able to clearly define problems is the most under-rated skill in management. Their view is certainly consistent with the saying, “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”

When confronted with problems, needs, issues or opportunities to be addressed in a campaign or your annual plan it is important you clearly define them so you can create the best solutions. The clarity of thought and direction created by the problem statement/s goes a long way to an effective communication project or program. If you don’t define them clearly, your response may be fuzzy and superficial.

Saves time and disagreements later

The problems or issues may seem obvious initially, but quite often later they may prove to be complex, with several interrelated causes, so you will want to ensure you have got to their core. Therefore when you clearly define a problem at the start of the process you will save time and arguments later when considering the intended outcomes and strategy.

Arguments may arise because individual viewpoints are colored by the nature of the problem as it affects their area. For instance, interdepartmental committee representatives might be motivated by other reasons such as trying to minimize paying their fair share of the budget for the ensuing project. Those people will try to impose their point of view on the rest of the group, but might only address part of the problem. Thus it is important to reach agreement on the core problem. And it is important to document that agreement to reduce possible later fights about who was on board.

How to clearly define problems

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About the author and editor Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in the eBooks available from

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