Problems are frequent occurrences in management systems of every organization. Their significance in an organization is demonstrated by the apparent inclusion of problem management strategies in evaluating the success of a management program. Apart from environmental sustainability plans, problem solving strategies are perhaps the most studied and considered element of business management. The concept of ‘problem’ is therefore central in business management studies literature. According to Landry (1995), the primary reason for this centrality of problem in business management literature is due to the fact that problems in management are dynamic and thus unpredictable. They, therefore call for well researched and carefully articulated strategies to provide cushion and insure against their occurrence in the future. Despite the centrality and widespread use of the concept of ‘problem’ in management setups, Landry (1995) thinks they still in need of illumination. This paper synthesizes literature from articles that site the nature of problems and the importance of good leadership in ensuring effective strategies are formulated to manage these problems. The synthesis is carried out from both the points of views of scholarly authors and practitioners.
Calton and Payne (2003) consider problem management as part of a wider aspect of life. The management strategies employed to handle problems can be linked to the way a society handles the paradoxes of life. The coping techniques he puts across are based on life situations rather than business formations. For instance, he argues for the use of paradoxical intentions rather than the traditional cognitive strategies often employed. Paradoxical intentions technique has been established to be effective in handling problems in business set ups with more positive outcome, not just in performance but also to the organization’s culture (Calton, & Payne, 2003). The rationale is that even business organizations are constituted by people, who then develop a universal culture around the organization. The problems they encounter around this setup are, therefore, similar to those experienced in any form of a society. The technique used to manage such problems determines the resulting performance level in an organization.
Calton and Payne sentiments are backed in one of the most common techniques to managing problems in organizations; wicked problem analysis. According to Churchman (1967), wicked problems are social or cultural problems that are often difficult to solve because they are either incomplete, contradict knowledge or confer large economic burdens. Characteristically though, these problems are linked to other problems that occur in society’s everyday life. For instance, nutrition is linked to poverty, poverty is linked to education, and hence nutrition is liked to economy. Policy makers are inevitably mandated to solve these problems and they must use strategies that conform to the society’s approach to solving problems.
It is, however, not debatable that these problems are difficult or even impossible to solve using any conventional management strategy. As such, the best management approach is that that deals with establishing evidence and acing on them (Weick, 2006). These actions are based on the faith that they would mitigate the evidence and effectively manage the problem at hand. Weick makes these prepositions with a focus on the relationship between how people think and how organizations function. Therefore, he brings out the societal element of organizational problems and the need to use societal approach to manage such problems. Unfortunately, Weick’s non-commitment to an appropriate management strategy is defective. A keen analysis of how people think and how this trend of through causes or solves problems in an organization is unsatisfactorily summed up with a preposition of hope and faith in the approach to solving these problems. One positive element that comes out in this argument is the need for good leadership to make certain the effective implementation of the preposition.
According to Grint (2005), problems are the construction of social leadership. Wicked problems have been the cause of various extreme actions witnessed across the globe over the past decades. These actions are inevitably a portrayal of the form of leadership entailed in those societies. For instance, Iraq was invaded on the premise that the situation in the country had proven unsustainable (Grint, 2005). It is widely acknowledged that an accurate account of the context of a problem is critical in decision making. However, the conventional contingency accounts of leadership seem to be incapable of explaining the decisions of the leaders engaged. The accurate implementation of the Tame and Wicked problem analysis model in solving social-oriented problems in an institution calls for strong leadership (Grint, 2005).
Far from the hypothetical considerations of the practitioners above, a scholarly analysis of the concept of problem in an organization, and approaches to problem management takes a step-by-step analysis of the appropriate actions for different criteria of problems. A transtadial approach to problem management ensures that one problem is tacked at a time (Bryson, & Mobolurin, 1997). This has the resultant effect of solving the bulk of an organization’s problems because it offers the platform to deal with the root causes of all the problems the organization is experiencing. Scholarly authors can, therefore, be said to be more rational concerning the studies of the concept of problem than their practitioner counterparts. However, the two categories of authors all portray ides that would aid decision making.
Bryson, N., & Mobolurin, A. (1997). An action learning evaluation procedure for multiple criteria decision making problems. European Journal of Operational Research, 96 (2), 379-386.
Calton, J., & Payne, S. (2003). Coping with paradox. Business & Society, 42 (1), 7-42.
Churchman, C.W. (1967). Wicked problems. Management Science, 14 (4), 141-42.
Grint, K. (2005). Problems, problems, problems: The social construction of ‘leadership. Human Relations, 58 (11), 1467-1494.
Landry, M. (1995). A Note on the Concept of ‘Problem. Organization Studies, 16 (2), 315-343.
Weick, K. E. (2006). Faith, evidence, and action: better guesses in an unknowable world. Organization Studies, 27 (11), 1723-1746.