A Wicked Challenge™ is not solved in the same way as a tame problem. Traditional decision theory focuses on selecting an option from a set of differently desirable choices, each of which has its costs and benefits.
To believe that there is a specific logical solution to any problem, including one that falls within our criteria, is to add to the story of the failure of organisations on a grand scale.
To succeed requires us to aim for a realistic standard of success. To call for the ‘solving’ of Wicked Challenges™ is to set up a standard that is impossible and perhaps unnecessary. Instead, we should rather favour a more realistic version of progress towards improving them or toward ‘satisficing’ outcomes. Accordingly, we propose Wicked Outcomes™, which include solutions and benefits.
It consists of solutions and benefits together with supporting management policies and processes that are broadly acceptable and implementable.
It therefore requires us to recognise ‘satisficing’ as the minimum requirement necessary to achieve a particular goal. Herbert Simon coined the term satisfice, combining the words ‘satisfy’ and ‘suffice’.
Accepting that Wicked Outcomes™ are necessarily contextual and not absolute, but better, or maybe ‘gooder’, as they cannot be compared to others, leads to improved outcomes.
You cannot know when colleagues have explored all feasible and desirable resolutions. Accordingly, it may take a long time before the real consequences of implementing a Wicked Outcome™ are discovered.
Once they are, expect ‘waves of consequences’ over an extended period of time. There is no way of tracing the source of these waves. This is because the full consequences cannot be appraised until the waves of repercussions have completely run their course.
A Wicked Outcome™ helps us surface separate – complementary – treatments and measures for both Wicked Challenges™ and tame problems. (See Frame IT and Measure IT).
This requires us to reach agreement on broader and less precise measurement criteria.
In terms of improvement, this is what we may refer to as a ‘minimum viable resolution’. It is a position that most of the stakeholders are ‘comfortable with’ – similar to the concept of the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA).
It is a resolution that represents a ‘local optimum’, i.e. a position that major stakeholders accept as the best place to be at this time.
Each requires us to reach agreement on narrower and more precise measurement criteria.
In terms of improvement this is what may be referred to as an ‘exacting KPIs’ that are SMART’.
This results in a situation where all stakeholders agree on the success metric and whether it has been achieved or otherwise.
For different reasons, both local optimums and KPIs are at risk of suffering from a silo mentality. As a result, there are often inherent misalignments with overall improvements for the organisation. Being aware of this is a helpful consideration when agreeing to define both.
Knowing this upfront represents a move away from the systematic failure organisations often face when tackling Wicked Challenges™.
Time to see your trickiest challenges in an innovative new way! In this paper, we identify a different kind of challenge that could be inhibiting or worse risking your whole organisation. We describe it's Essential and Supplementary Elements and provide a Six IT approach to resolving it.