Managing Intractable ProblemsIn an article in the May 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, John C. Camillus, a professor of strategic management at the University of Pittsburgh's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, offers a rich exploration of the nature of intractable problems (aka "wicked" problems), which are increasingly the type of strategic issues business people confront. Camillus also provides a detailed process for managing intractable problems.
I will not attempt to summarize Camillus' article; it is worth reading in its entirety. Let me just quote the portion of the article abstract that enumerates the five criteria that help in determining whether or not a problem you're facing is wicked:
If a problem involves many stakeholders with conflicting priorities; if its roots are tangled; if it changes with every attempt to address it; if you've never faced it before; and if there's no way to evaluate whether a remedy will work, chances are good that it's wicked.To illustrate his recommended process for managing intractable problems, Camillus closes his article with a description of how PPG Industries changed its approach to strategic planning once it realized that major problems the company was confronting were in the wicked category.