Goal orientation, described by Rickards (1974) and VanGundy (1981; 1988) is a basic logical checklist for problem statements. For a more involved set of logical criteria, see the CATWOE checklist. For a more inventive-based checklist see Multiple Redefinition.
The procedure is as follows:
- Describe the problem by writing down a general description but in as much detail as possible
- List the needs implied by the problem, by outlining what you are trying to achieve
- List the inherent difficulties that are preventing you from achieving your goal. E.g. if I am chopping down a tree, the hardness of its wood is an inherent difficulty because anyone chopping down that tree would have to deal with it.
- List the external constraints that apply to this problem at this time e.g. I have promised to finish chopping down the tree for the owner by lunchtime today, is an external constraint because it is specific to this occasion.
- Now write a clear problem statement that illustrates all these requirements, restrictions and hindrances.
‘Inherent difficulties’ and ‘External constraints’ are listed separately because the options for dealing with these two types of problem are likely to be very different: the options for solving tree-hardness are clearly of a very different kind from the option for dealing with my ‘finish on time’ promise.