Problem vs Issue

Working problems and issues is an everyday activity with businesses. Knowing the difference can help with approach and when to step-in and or prioritize.

From a perspective of a business function:

  • Issues are a single occurrence, occasional, or rare of unwanted results that may be minimal impact.
  • Problems are reoccurring issues or major impact.

For the purpose of this post we will not go into too much detail on explaining the various differences as we'd like to talk more about the examples pertaining business. To learn more we will not provide you a link because you can simply use Google for this one.


Issues are a common occurrence and business owners are usually experts at dealing with them, "putting out fires" as they say. Issues are a part of your business. In-fact they're the reason you're in business. Whatever your business is whether you provide products and or services your business resolves an issue. Customers don't have it, enough, it needs fix, built, replacement, support, help, etc. These are examples of issues your business likely resolves.

While your business is out there resolving issues for others what about issues that your business is experiencing?

Issues with your business are likely obvious and can be dealt with on a regular basis. Missed phone calls, unpaid bills, rework, inefficient resources, and the list goes on and on. You keep slamming down each issue about as fast as they come up.

Issues are more about unwanted results than simple tasks. For example leaves on the walkway can be an issue and sweeping them away can be a task.

Problems are continual occurrences of the same issue or issues. This is where gains are accomplished in the form of efficiencies, quality, and performance.

Many business owners believe that resolving issues is a good business owner. While resolving issues is a part of being a good business owner it is resolving problems that makes you a good business owner.

Some examples we used previously were missing phone calls. Continually missing phone calls is a problem. We don't need to explain the problem here since you're a business owner. Do we keep missing phone calls? We would if we treat the issue and not the problem. To resolve this problem we need to either not have the phone ring at all or make it so we never miss a call. Many don't think about eliminating calls but this is a solution to the problem. Automation call centers have doomed us all but they never miss a call. Alway there but not really. A better way to resolve this problem if wanting to eliminate calls is to provide an alternative such as email. Or, apply additional instruction and or documentation to answer and potential questions.

Issues are always going to happen but problems need attention. Here're some simple techniques to solve problems:

  • Is this a problem or an issue?
  • Put in on a list and prioritize it.
  • Determine a solution that resolves the problem but also maintains all other aspect of your business.
  • Apply a long-term fix, however, be sure to apply quality thought here. Remember our example of Implementing the automation call centers resolve this missing calls but ruined customer service. Consider all aspect of a particular problem before rolling out a haste solution.
  • Track performance. What gets measured gets done.
  • Reflect. Maybe you rollout a solution but begin to recognize it is or is not working as expected. Don't assume a problem stays resolved ether.

We provide solutions to problems through systems. Systems facilitate process to provide consistent desired results.

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