A frequent mistake may make is to identify and solve the wrong problem. A problem is seldom solved by attacking its symptoms. A problem is not necessarily solved where it is located. A problem solver is advised to spend time investigating the problem before starting to solve it. First, by solving the wrong problem, the problem solver is still leaf with the original problem. Second, the less one understands something, the more variables are required to explain it. Better to find the root cause of the problem. Then, the solution to the problem is to reverse the root cause, either by elimination or addition.
A problem-owner often begins by describing a problems as either an "undesirable outcome" or a "desired outcome that is not present". Some typical examples of people problems include: my husband doesn't act lovingly towards me, my child is disrespectful, my neighbor's dog barks a lot, etc. (endless list). Some typical examples of money problems include: I didn't get the rise I was expecting, the heater broke and I need to get it fixed, my job position has been down graded and my salary has been cut, I owe more in taxes this year than last, etc (endless list). This list of problems is just the tip of the ice berg. However the problem might be initially defined, don't try to solve the problem at this point as insufficient understanding is present. One must first get to the root causes or find which of the many inputs and/or processes that are causing the undesirable conditions.
The root causes to all human problems are either a deficiency of resources or know-how: a lack of resources are linked to a shortage of time, energy, and capital/money while a lack of know-how is linked to a shortfall of skills and ability to deal with people or physical objects. All the people problems described above could be solved with more know-how...how to deal with people effectively. All the money problems described above could be solved with more resources...more time, energy, or more money (with more money, one can buy more time and more energy from other people).
A well-defined problem is half solved. Once the culprits (deficiencies or root causes) causing the problem are discovered, they can be remedied. So, a problem is defined when the deficiencies are specifically identified. The solution is to remedy all deficiencies. Most deficiencies can be removed by adding something new to the set of inputs that are influencing the undesirable outcomes. The problem is defined as either what inputs should be present but aren't and/or which inputs are present and shouldn't be.
A problem is defined when the problem-owner can describe the input conditions that are necessary to create the outcomes they are seeking. Unless all these input conditions can be created, the problem will not be totally solved. Presumably, the more the prerequisite conditions are present, the less severe the problem. Likewise, the more input conditions are missing, the more severe the problem. Still, a problem may not be solved if just one of the key input variables (or processes) is not present.