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# Wicked issues taming problems and systems

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### Wicked issues taming problems and systems

1. 1. Wicked Issues Taming problems through Rich Picturing and Soft Systems Methodology Rich Pictures work based on work with the Open University and material by Prof. Helen M Edwards & Dr Lynne Humphries (University of Sunderland) and Jeremy Rose (Manchester Metropolitan University). 1
2. 2. Rumsfeld, 2004 2
3. 3. "Every problem interacts with other problems and is therefore part of a set of interrelated problems, a system of problems…. I choose to call such a system a mess. Ackhoff 1974 3
4. 4. Expectations of Communities are Complex Egan, 2004 4
5. 5. Your expected skill set is complex Egan, 2004 5
6. 6. Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent ad well informed just to be undecided about them Lawrence J Peter Chapter 1 of Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems, by Jeff Conklin, Ph.D., Wiley, October 2006. 6
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8. 8. Wicked Problems 1. 2. 3. 4. There is no definite formulation of a wicked problem. Wicked problems have no stopping rules. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem. 5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly. 6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan. 7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique. 8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another [wicked] problem. 9. The causes of a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution. 10.[With wicked problems,] the planner has no right to be wrong. Ritchie, T (2005) 8
9. 9. Wicked Problems 1 1. There is no definite formulation of a wicked problem "The information needed to understand the problem depends upon one's idea for solving it. This is to say: in order to describe a wicked problem in sufficient detail, one has to develop an exhaustive inventory for all the conceivable solutions ahead of time." 2. Wicked problems have no stopping rules. In solving a tame problem, "… the problem-solver knows when he has done his job. There are criteria that tell when the solution or a solution has been found". With wicked problems you never come to a "final", "complete" or "fully correct" solution - since you have no objective criteria for such. The problem is continually evolving and mutating. You stop when you run out of resources, when a result is subjectively deemed "good enough" or when we feel "we've done what we can…“ 3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse. The criteria for judging the validity of a "solution" to a wicked problem are strongly stakeholder dependent. However, the judgments of different stakeholders …"are likely to differ widely to accord with their group or personal interests, their special value-sets, and their ideological predilections." Different stakeholders see different "solutions" as simply better or worse. 4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem "… any solution, after being implemented, will generate waves of consequences over an extended - virtually an unbounded - period of time. Moreover, the next day's consequences of the solution may yield utterly undesirable repercussions which outweigh the intended advantages or the advantages accomplished hitherto.“ 5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly. "… every implemented solution is consequential. It leaves "traces" that cannot be undone … And every attempt to reverse a decision or correct for the undesired consequences poses yet another set of wicked problems … ." Ritchie, T (2005) 9
10. 10. Wicked Problems 2 6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the place "There are no criteria which enable one to prove that all the solutions to a wicked problem have been identified and considered. It may happen that no solution is found, owing to logical inconsistencies in the 'picture' of the problem.“ 7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique. "There are no classes of wicked problems in the sense that the principles of solution can be developed to fit all members of that class." …Also, …"Part of the art of dealing with wicked problems is the art of not knowing too early which type of solution to apply." 8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another [wicked] problem. Also, many internal aspects of a wicked problem can be considered to be symptoms of other internal aspects of the same problem. A good deal of mutual and circular causality is involved, and the problem has many causal levels to consider. Complex judgements are required in order to determine an appropriate level of abstraction needed to define the problem. 9. The causes of a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution. "There is no rule or procedure to determine the 'correct' explanation or combination of [explanations for a wicked problem]. The reason is that in dealing with wicked problems there are several more ways of refuting a hypothesis than there are permissible in the *e.g. physical+ sciences.“ 10. [With wicked problems,] the planner has no right to be wrong. In "hard" science, the researcher is allowed to make hypotheses that are later refuted. Indeed, it is just such hypothesis generation that is a primary motive force behind scientific development (Ritchey, 1991). Thus one is not penalised for making hypothesis that turn out to be wrong. "In the world of … wicked problems no such immunity is tolerated. Here the aim is not to find the truth, but to improve some characteristic of the world where people live. Planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate …" Ritchie, T (2005) 10
11. 11. Tame Problems Chapter 1 of Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems, by Jeff Conklin, Ph.D., Wiley, October 2006. 11
12. 12. Chapter 1 of Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems, by Jeff Conklin, Ph.D., Wiley, October 2006. 12
13. 13. SSM (Soft Systems Methodology) • • SSM “systems thinking” approach SSM has seven steps • In step 2: “problem situation expressed”rich pictures are used 1 2 situation considered problematic 7 action to improve the problem situation problem situation expressed . comparison of models and real world 5 6 changes: systemically desirable, culturally feasible real world systems thinking about real world 3 root definition of relevant systems conceptual models of systems described in root definitions 4 13
14. 14. Rich Pictures • In reviewing a situation or examining a system the first task is to – 'express' the problem situation i.e. to form a rich picture. – Rich picture = 'thorough, but non-judgmental understanding’. – N.B. Different rich pictures can be draw for the same system/situation by different stakeholders. 14
15. 15. Rich Pictures • • Usually free form diagrams or “cartoons” – Pictures provide an excellent way of sorting out and prioritising complex problem areas. – Pictures display relationships - the way business functions work together. They may include elements of – structure (e.g. the departments of a university) – process (e.g. studying, examining), – issues, concerns, or developments (e.g. implementing a quality service). 15
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17. 17. Rich Picture Example • Here is an example of a rich picture: what does it tell you? • Can you see any risks here? • Can you see any opportunities? source: Lewis, P.J. (1992) Rich Picture building in the SSM, European Journal of Information Systems 17
18. 18. References • • • • • • • • • • • • Avison,D. and Fitzgerald,G (1995) IS Development: Methodologies, Techniques and Tools. 2nd Edition, McGraw-Hill, McGraw-Hill Checkland, P., and Scholes, J. (1990) Soft Systems Methodology in Action, Wiley Lewis, P.J.(1992) Rich Picture Building. European Journal of Information Systems, Vol 1, No. 5 Egan (2004) The Egan Review: Skills for sustainable communities ODPM http://resources.cohesioninstitute.org.uk/Publications/Documents/Document/Default.aspx?recordId=15 7 Accessed 8/1/14 Open University (ud) Systems Thinking and Practice: Diagramming http://systems.open.ac.uk/materials/t552/index.htm – “Talked through” explanation (with example of the energy debate). Patching, D. (1990) Practical Soft Systems Analysis. FT Prentice Hall, London. Rose, J (ud) Soft Systems Methodology, Department of BIT, the Manchester Metropolitan University. – Available from http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0hed/cifm04.html Rittel, H., and M. Webber; "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning" pp 155-169, Policy Sciences, Vol. 4, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Inc., Amsterdam, 1973. Ritchey, T 2005 (revised 2013), Wicked Problems: Modelling Social Messes with Morphological Analysis Swedish Morphological Society http://www.swemorph.com/wp.html Accessed 8/1/14 Ackoff, Russell, "Systems, Messes, and Interactive Planning" Portions of Chapters I and 2 of Redesigning the Future. New York/London: Wiley, 1974 Conklin, Jeff; Wicked Problems & Social Complexity, Chapter 1 of Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems, Wiley, November 2005. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2004) The Egan Review: skills for sustainable communities. 18