Six Sigma Problem Statement

How To Write Six Sigma Problem Statement

Six Sigma Problem Statement figure

Writing Six Sigma Problem Statement effectively is one of the most important elements of Six Sigma project.  The specific and clearer your problem statement is, the better Six Sigma results you will reap.

As it goes in Quality, ‘First Things First’ and ‘Doing Right Things Right’…

Most of the Six Sigma projects fail, because of the lack of clarity and proper direction about what to achieve. Please note that ‘what’ always comes first before you address the ‘how’ part.

That is why ‘doing right things first time’ is very important principle of Quality. And selecting the right problem and then defining it with specificity comes under that. No matter, whether it takes more days, or months. It’s always better to invest your time at the first stage and then direct all of your energies in solving that ‘right’ problems.

Writing Six Sigma problem statement and then the objectives’ statement fall under the first phase of Six Sigma project – Define.  In one way, it is the easiest part, but on the other hand, it’s often done mostly incorrectly and in haste – selecting the wrong problems to address.

In order to find the problems in the first place, you have to see the big picture, the business area where there can be any problems like

  • Product Returns
  • Receivable Collection Issues
  • Complicated Workflow
  • Low Quality
  • Low Yield
  • Rework
  • Waste
  • Long Cycle Times
  • Excessive Inventory
  • Customer complaints

Let’s now see the anatomy of writing a good Six Sigma problem statement.

Normally, in a good problem statement, there are five important elements:

  1. Problem description 
  2. Where – Unit / Process name & location
  3. Baseline - The current goal or objective not being met.
  4. Duration -how long problem has been occurring
  5. Impact - The size or magnitude of the problem (resulting in… or How much loss in dollars)
Six Sigma Problem Statement Method


In the last 6 months, 5% pizzas had to be scrapped prior to boxing due to undercooking. The boxers had no procedures for sending pizzas back for additional cooking time. In addition, 2% pizzas delivered to customers were undercooked, resulting in 125 complaints. Pizzas scrapping cost the company USD 23,550 during the last 6 months in addition to a loss of customers.

The next logical step is writing the Objectives Statement- which basically springs out from the problem statement.

Objectives statement is easier to write, once the problem statement has been written in a specific & effective manner.

Objectives Statement should satisfy the SMART criteria:

  • S: Specific
  • M: Measurable
  • A: Aggressive / Attainable
  • R: Realistic
  • T: Time bound

There are generally four elements of Objectives Statement:

  1. The Objective – the metric to be improved
  2. Baseline - The current deviation from baseline
  3. Timeframe  - for achieving the goal/objective
  4. Impact  - on the corporate goal and/or the amount of savings (USD).


Our goal is to reduce the number of pizzas scrapped from undercooking from 5% to less than .05% by June 30. In addition, we also want to reduce the number of undercooked pizzas that reach customers from 2% to zero by the same date. Doing so will help restore our image as quality pizza parlor and will save the company USD 50,000 annually.

In order to satisfy the 5 ingredients of problem statement and 4 ingredients for Objectives statement, you have to take some solid data and base your problems according to that.

Please note that vague statements without the important 5 ingredients will not make the problem clearer enough.

Hold meetings with process owners, check reports, check computer reports to find your important 5 ingredients.

Once you have those 5 initial ingredients, you will have to devote some dedicated time for writing Six Sigma problem statement, since it is going to be the real foundation on which your Six Sigma project will rest. Once you achieve that, rest of the things will start falling in place.