Problem Analysis

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COURSE NOTE ON:

PROBLEM ANALYSIS

Herman H. Grant Caribbean Global Projects (International) Inc February 6, 2007

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PROBLEM ANALYSIS
In conducting a problem analysis, the following approach might be helpful: 1. Distinguish between problem and symptoms; 2. Analyze the symptoms and seek to identify the problem; and, 3. Design the project or programme response

DISTINGUISH BETWEEN PROBLEM AND SYMPTOMS A problem is a negative situation that is usually not easily identifiable. In contrast, the symptoms are indicators, or signs, that are often easier to identify than the problem. For example: if the problem being addressed is the common cold; two likely symptoms are: stuffy nose, and headache. However, the underlying “cause” of the problem is not necessarily easy to determine. Similarly, the core development problems within the macro-economic planning environment are difficult to determine, and sometimes, planners might in futility be treating the symptoms. Two example of the likely difference between problem and symptoms are illustrated at Appendix 1. ANALYSING THE SYMPTOMS AND IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM Problem analysis starts with efforts to identify the core problem. The crucial starting point is to listen to stakeholders and thus determine the underlying causes, and if possible, the “core” problem. These causes are sometimes viewed as “contributory factors”. Based on this analysis, the project could be targeted to provide the optimal intervention, in the most cost effective and socially acceptable manner. Major challenges to be avoided in problem identification are: • Inadequate problem specification (eg if the problem is poor management, what do we mean by “poor management?” Are we talking about inadequate levels of delegation, poor financial controls, delays in delivery of key services, or what? • The statement of “absent solutions” (eg. It is important to avoid statements such as “lack of this or of that”), but instead focus on an existing negative situation. For example, “Lack of trained staff” does not describe the specific problem (perhaps the existing staff has insufficient or inappropriate skills), and risks biasing the intervention towards the absent solution (“training”) when in fact it might be an issue of recruitment or personnel management.

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Unless you analyze the problem, you might end up trying to address the symptoms. By treating the symptoms: • • • • • the cure may take longer; or the problem may not be solved ; or the cure might cost much more; or we patient might become addicted to paying for relief, with no efforts at finding a cure; or the core problem might become worse, and kill the patient.

The main justification for the Problem Analysis is to determine the main cause (or causes) of the problem. The general framework is outlined below and illustrated at appendix 2: Problem Identification/Analysis (Negatives) EFFECTS: The most important short/medium/long-term consequences of not solving the problem: 1 2 .. N Position Statement: The observed negative situation/symptom: (Positives) ENDS: (positives) The desired short/medium/long-term benefits and justification: 1 2 .. n SOLUTION The desired result that would be observed.

CAUSES: The underlying problem/ the most likely contributory or risk factors: 1 2 .. N

MEANS: The best short/medium/long-term projects/programmes/strategies: 1 2 .. n

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DESIGNING THE PROJECT OR PROGRAMME RESPONSE Given the range of “Means” that are identified, the planner is then in a position, based on prior experience, to recommend to the stakeholders the most appropriate mix of elements that should be included in the project or programme to be developed. Some likely criteria for selecting the components may be as follows: • • • • • • • • • Acceptability to the target group and other relevant stakeholders Resource availability and affordability Existing potentials and capacities of the target group Relevance to sector development Relationship to...
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