Call us on 01228 711888 Menu

Wicked Problems

This morning, 27 June 2014, Jane Clingan and I attended the Centre for Leadership Performance’s (CfLP) masterclass, by Professor Keith Grint entitled ‘Wicked Problems and Clumsy Solutions: The Role of Leadership’, at Energus, Workington.

This was a very interesting and informative talk with Professor Grint explaining three types of problems faced by leaders –  tame, critical and wicked, and associating these with management, command and leadership.

The talk contained examples of the amount of change, particularly in government and the health service, where new leaders bring change, summarising that with so much ’change’ it is not surprising that most change initiatives fail.  The talk highlighted that this failure could be to do with the framing of the problem and consequent approach to it.

Professor Grint gave examples of how leaders can find comfort in spending resources getting marginal efficiencies from challenging situations, when the real gain is in finding a whole new solution.  He also demonstrated how leaders can still meet the challenges of increasing complexity through a natural evolution of leadership skills, even joking that BOHICA (Bend Over Here It Comes Again) – putting your head in the ground – is sometimes a sensible solution.

Often problems contain an element of management and politics and so leaders need to be cunning in playing a long term game.

Wicked problems are complex and need leaders to go beyond their internally coherent approaches and adopt ‘Clumsy Solutions’.  There was continued emphasis on leaders talking to their teams and letting people solve the problem as a team.  The role of the leader is therefore to ask the right questions rather than provide the solution, because the answers will not be self-evident and will require a collaborative process to make progress.

Another great masterclass put on by CfLP and we look forward to their next event.

David Allen

Posted: June 27th, 2014

View previous years entries