Don’t Solve DUMB Problems!

Smart Goals don’t work if your problems are dumb. Smart goals need smart problems.

You need to define your problem well enough to solve them and achieve business goals.

We live in a smart world — smartphones, smart TV, smart AI assistants, smart this and smart that. The problems at work seem to have missed the smart bus.

Dumb problems are statements with zero clarity — they state the obvious and lack direction.


1. A lot of customers have been complaining about late deliveries. (What’s missing: how many calls received? Is there a significant increase in number of such calls? What % of customers complained? Any specific period or region or product?)

2. None of the candidate profiles match the job description. (What’s missing: number of resumes screened, source of resumes, what is the mismatch?)

3. Our website bounce rate has increased to 70% last month (What’s missing: Increased after “any change made on the website” OR “launch of a new campaign”)

The 3 examples above simply state the obvious. They sound DUMB. How do you arrive at a solution? You would be wasting precious time trying to reach the possible cause for each of these.

Show the door to anyone who comes with a dumb problem statement.

Make your problems smart. Let’s refer to Problem Statement guidelines as per Six Sigma DMAIC:

A problem statement must answer the following:

1. WHAT is the problem?

2. WHY is it a problem? The IMPACT

3. WHERE is the problem occurring? The Place, Time, Incident

4. WHO is experiencing the problem? Customers, Department, Employees, Vendors

5. WHEN is the problem occurring? At what stage like when trying to submit a document

Back these with how was the problem observed and what is the frequency. A well defined problem statement guides you in the right direction. A vaguely defined problem statement leads you inside a maze.

Don’t waste precious time and resources solving DUBM problems.

Thank you for reading this article. I talk about problem solving and people management. Follow me to receive notifications for new posts. And, do share your feedback and suggestions.



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Nitesh Verma

Business Analyst, Blogger and Coach. I write about strategy, problem solving and people management.