The Difference Between an Issue and a Problem
These words are often used as synonymous in the business world. They are similar – but have very different meanings. Most business people would rather face an issue than a problem. An issue can be resolved quickly – whereas a problem may take a little more Q&A and research to resolve.
An issue is something that arises that the business has a solution to. The issue may be repetitive – and the solution may also be the same used each time the issue comes up. Example – in the business of product distribution. The manufacturer is in Tennessee with a major customer in the New Jersey market. Trucks will daily make the same trip. Occasionally there have been construction delays on I-81 in Virginia near Roanoke. There is a parallel highway where the route is detoured to avoid the delay. That is an issue where the solution is readily available.
In the same business a problem could be a bridge om I-95 between Philadelphia and New Jersey is closed due to weather. That is a problem as there is no on other bridge that can be used to reroute the product and still make on time delivery. The solution may be to look long term at delivery requirements and in the event of inclement weather increase deliveries to arrive prior to bad weather.
Another solution may be to divert trucks in advance of arriving in the Philadelphia area to possibly stay on I-81 up to central Pennsylvania and take I-78 over into New Jersey. There are solutions available to the problem – but can not be immediately put into place to resolve the problem.
Journal of Business Strategy states that an issue is “..clear, unambiguous, and easily communicated..” (Jaques). A problem is often more complex. There is a fine line between an issue becoming a problem. If not clearly defined and a solution not immediately identified and put in place – then an issue can grow into a business problem. Likewise – a problem that is identified that may potentially be repetitive – should have a process in place to resolve as soon as identified. That would mean the problem is now more of an issue – more of a nuisance that needs to be worked around.
No matter the moniker the business community places on them – issues and problems are both something that will be faced daily. Some days the moniker doesn’t mean as much as the issue/problem.
Jaques, T. (2009). Journal of Business Strategy. Issue or Problem? Managing the Difference and averting the Crisis. Retrieved February 15, 2009, from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/mcb/288/2007/00000028/00000006/art00004