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Problem definition


Problem definition (define phase): At kickoff, it is critical for a team to have an in-depth discussion of the project's broader context, the different stakeholder objectives, what purpose each project activity serves and identify any known unknowns or blind spots.


  • For the team to build an understanding of the nuances surrounding their project.
  • For the team to align around the key problems or challenges of the project. 
  • For key questions, concerns, hypotheses, assumptions to be discussed.

What you get

  • A focussed, confident and aligned team.
  • A clearly communicable project challenge that can be used to explain to stakeholders.
  • A set of hypotheses or assumptions about “what is true” that can be proven / disproven during research activities.


  • Great at provoking a discussion about the difference between beliefs and assumptions, and evidence and insights.
  • Good at allowing all team members to contribute strategically to the framing of the project.
  • Great at demonstrating to stakeholders that the project is being carefully and professionally approached.


  • Not a good way to start a project if key team members are missing from the discussion.
  • Can be frustrating if the project approach, methods and activities are locked in and cannot be reflected upon and adjusted.


It is helpful to decide before this discussion takes place what is on and off the table in terms of what can and cannot be changed as a result of the discussion.

Some projects have valid non-negotiables - these need to be understood and respected. However, this is the best possible time to pivot a project or reframe key activities based on new information or insights from the newly formed team.