How to Define and Scope a Transport Problem

Being able to thoughtfully define a transport problem is key to success. Don’t fall into the trap many professionals do by jumping to a solution, without fully understanding what the problem really is.

Before a transport solution can be developed to tackle a pressing issue, the problem must be carefully defined and scoped. Transport problems are seldom simple.

A well-defined problem statement has three elements – the undesired situation, the future desired situation and in getting from one to the other, what is the downside.

To illustrate, traffic congestion is an undesired situation and more reliable traffic flow is a desired situation, so the difference is the gap, however the downside means not everyone wins.

Traffic congestion can be defined as a ‘wicked problem’ a problem that is difficult if not impossible to solve.

To help analyse problems there are two tools often used – PESTEL Analysis and SWOT Analysis. PESTEL Analysis is used to analyse factors in the macro context, considering current and emerging Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Environment and Legalchanges.

SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) has a focus on the tactical or project level, so the two tools complement each other and should be used together.

Key Concepts

  • A good problem statement focuses our thinking on the problem, rather than on preferred alternatives
  • A problem is defined by: An undesired situation … gap … desired situation, however there are downsides to getting there
  • Wicked problems are difficult, if not impossible to solve
  • Two tools used to analyse problems are PESTEL (macro) and SWOT (tactical) Analysis

To learn more check out the online course Addressing Transport Challenges.

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