Last week. Rachel’s blog post looked at the importance of asking Why. This week we’ll take a closer look at the Problem Framing Canvas she mentioned. It’s designed to be used with a team to establish a clear consensus about what problem you’re trying to solve.

When I’m leading one of these sessions, I like to give everyone a copy of the canvas on 11×17 paper, so there’s plenty of room to write. I start by setting a timer for 4 minutes and inviting everyone to spend a little quiet writing time, mostly focused on the first box on the upper left of the canvas (the “What’s the problem?” box).

Then we use the questions on the canvas to guide the discussion (usually 60-90 minutes) and explore different facets of the problem.

In the last 10-15 minutes, we focus on the big box at the bottom (“No, really, what’s the actual problem?”) to document the team’s shared understanding of the problem. The transformation from our initial problem statement to the final problem statement is usually quite striking.

Get your copy of the Problem Framing Canvas (and instructions on how to use it) on the Problem Framing page.