What Problem Are You Really Trying to Solve?

I’m an enthusiastic problem solver, so when somebody presents me with an issue I love jumping in, rolling my sleeves up and trying to work out the solution as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this is a classic mistake and a pretty surefire way to waste a whole lot of time and money! You tend to start with an armful of assumptions that ultimately turn out to be ill-informed rather than really understanding what the person is trying to achieve and having to go back round the loop again. Not very customer-centric and not very clever.

Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

But there’s a something to help us with that! You won’t find it in any project management textbook – at least not in the one’s that I’ve seen – but it has been around for a few years.

Value Proposition Design is the perfect tool to help you to understand what your customer is trying to achieve (jobs), what stops them achieving it now (pains), and also what extra things they might enhance their experience (gains). It forces you to define how you’re going to address each of these through the products and services that you deliver within a project, or ‘wants’ that you consciously choose not address. For example, a user might want something a new phone that has a high speed processor, 7 inch screen, is lighter than main competitors and a has a battery life of 7 days. You aren’t going to deliver all of these but it allows you to choose which you are going to try and solve.

Copyright 2018 — Strategyzer AG

Here’s a preview of the book that can be purchased at

The book covers not just the tool, but some really good methods on how to utilise it and some examples including the Value Proposition for how the authors constructed the book itself.

There also a stack of free tools and templates at their website
https://www.strategyzer.com/canvas It’s a massively powerful tool and works best completed with your stakeholders, ideally a combination of ‘customers’and ‘suppliers’ together as a means to draw out true requirements, understand the must haves, should haves and could haves, and also to start to engage both sides in a shared goal and solution. Get all the players together is invaluable in helping build deep understanding for those building the solution.

This also ties in really nicely with the Business Model Canvas (and Operating Model Canvas) which I’ll cover in another post as tool to define how the organisation will deliver that value proposition.

Key takeaways:

  • Really understand what your customer wants to achieve, not just what their ‘problem’ is
  • Get customers and suppliers togther to help flesh out the requirements and solutions
  • Buy Value Proposition Design and Canvas….highly, highly recommended as a means of getting your project off to the right start!

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