Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 - 16:13
Today governments are facing very serious, seemingly intractable public management issues
that go to the core of effective governance and leadership, testing the very form, structure, and
capacity required to meet these problems head-on.
These types of challenges run the gamut from the 2008 meltdown of the global financial system to the Y2K challenge, pandemics, and natural and man-made disasters. Many are more difficult to anticipate, get out in front of, and handle. In most manifestations, they don’t follow orderly and linear processes.
Complex challenges, or so-called “wicked” problems, tend to have innumerable causes and are hard to define, making their mitigation resistant to predetermined solutions or traditional problem-solving approaches. In certain instances, the scope, nature, and extent of these challenges eliminate the notion of quick fixes or one-size-fits-all solutions. The resources needed to properly address these wicked problems often transcend the capacity of any single agency. As a result, government leaders find it necessary to go beyond established parameters and institutional strictures, working across organizational boundaries in pursuit of multi-layered, networked approaches that are tailored to a specific challenge. As Ed DeSeve underscores in his latest IBM Center report, Managing Recovery: An Insider’s View, “meeting complex, or wicked problems requires a new approach based on an integrated system of relationships that reach across both formal and informal organizational boundaries.” This often demands that today’s government leaders be more innovative, collaborative, and flexible. It also may require government to supplement core skills with additional expertise that may be better suited to tackling complex, non-routine challenges. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency to solve, or at least, attempt to cope with many of these types of challenges by instituting equally complex structures and systems in response (i.e., establishing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security). As Professor Don Kettl points out, the current conduct of American government is a poor match for the problems it must solve. “If government is to serve the needs of its citizens in the 21st century, it must reconfigure itself—to shift the boundaries of who does what and, even more important, how its work gets done.”
Read the entire article.