Businesses encounter a wide range of problems or obstacles that require timely and evidence-based solutions to transform the situation. Some of these impediments might be simple, complex or intractable depending on the causal factors and outcomes. Some of the intractable challenges can threaten the future performance and success of an organization or the entire sector. These are described as wicked in nature because they require unconventional strategies to deal with while, at the same time, understanding that a viable solution might be unavailable. Fortunately, some theorists have managed to present several models and concepts that can guide managers or organizational leaders to solve such wicked problems. The purpose of this paper is to apply an effective soft systems approach to deal with malpractices that result in pollution and environmental degradation within my current organization. The selected company is a leading producer and marketer of fresh juices and processed products.
Critical Analysis of the Wicked Problem
Business organizations operate in ever-changing external environments and situations. Managers should be aware of possible opportunities and challenges that have the potential to improve performance and maximize shareholder value. New policies and guidelines have emerged to inform the behaviors, actions and strategies of business entities (Checkland, 2006). A detailed analysis of such laws and regulations can become an evidence-based approach to increase possible challenges and improve profitability. The selected example of a wicked problem being recorded in my current workplace is the fact that the company has been engaging in unsustainable practices that continue to threaten the integrity of the natural environment.
This company has an established supply chain management that includes different partners, such as suppliers, logistical firms and customers. This organization has relaxed some of the implemented strategies to minimize pollution and improve the environment. The majority of the employees acknowledge that the company has been releasing untreated effluents to the nearby river. The firm also fails to implement powerful measures to minimize its emissions (Michalko, 2006). Consequently, the community members have continued to raise their concerns after realizing that most of the aquatic animals downstream have been dying.
While the company has been marketing its products as sustainable and appropriate for the natural environment, the ongoing malpractices appear to challenge this form of assertion. This organization has failed to integrate powerful mechanisms to address the challenges different stakeholders continue to face. The increasing level of pollution has made it impossible for most of the workers to complete their duties efficiently (Proctor, 2013). These conditions have been identified as a possible cause of reduced employee involvement and productivity. If this company does not implement a powerful solution to address this wicked problem, chances are high that it will become unsustainable and fail to meet the demands of more stakeholders. The organization will also record increased cases of lawsuits unless a new change is recorded. Such malpractices have been challenging the integrity of its business model and the promise to pursue corporate social responsibility (CSR) as its driving force.
The nature of this issue amounts to a wicked problem since it affects the natural environment, disorients the lives and expectations of many people and makes it impossible for more workers to achieve their aims. The condition has worsened since all leaders have failed to consider new ways of transforming the situation (Hicks, 2004). Complaints from community members have been on the rise. The presence of such a wicked problem means that the company is at risk of losing most of its customers and eventually becoming less competitive in the sector (Yuliansyah, Gurd and Mohamed, 2017). These reasons support the move to introduce a superior model to address the situation and empower more employees to complete their tasks optimally.
Critical Analysis of the Systems Approach
The nature of wicked problems makes them hard to define or present a powerful model to address them. Different models or critical thinking strategies have emerged that different professionals and managers can apply to resolve them (Yi, Park and Kim, 2019). The first one is known as the collaborative model that has been applied for several decades. The purpose of this framework and all others derived from it is to ensure that all key stakeholders are informed and involved to find a sustainable solution to the problem (Reynolds and Holwell, 2010). All individuals and agencies are encouraged to meet and outline the key issues before finding a common approach (Grozdanovska, Jankulovski and Bojkovska, 2017). The adoption of this strategy has made it possible for many companies and even communities to find solutions to some of the common wicked problems they might be facing (Morrison, 2017). However, the current issue might not benefit from such models since they are simple and fail to provide clear guidelines for delivering positive results. Additionally, the process will consume time before desirable results can be recorded.
A competitive approach has been in use to solve a wide range of wicked challenges in organizations. This model focuses on the best ways to reduce the number of participants throughout the problem-solving process. This method is essential since it makes it possible for individuals to minimize the levels of objection and complexity (Hosseini and Mahesh, 2016). However, Ghazzawi (2018) views such an approach as challenging since the key stakeholders might fail to consider the demands and expectations of the other people or community members. The end result is that the organization might encounter additional challenges and even fail to record positive results.
Critical thinking has emerged as an evidence-based model for tackling various wicked problems at both the corporate and societal levels. This model promotes the power of skeptical and rational evaluation in an attempt to understand the true nature of a given challenge (Daft, Murphy and Willmott, 2017). At the business level, different actors need to be involved in a possible solution is to be recorded within the shortest time possible. The consideration of factual evidence becomes a norm to bring the relevant to the table and eventually inform the problem-solving process (Mukhezakule and Tefera, 2019). However, this framework ignores the importance of superior guidelines and procedures that different actors need to pursue before finding a common ground and implementing the solution.
The theory of planning has been in use to overcome most of the challenges that business organizations might encounter while trying to pursue their aims. Claxton and Lucas (2007) believe that such a concept can help stakeholders identify potential challenges before they can affect future performance. Stakeholders can pursue the case of environmental degradation using this framework since it encourages different actors to be involved and offer superior guidelines throughout the process (Samiee and Chirapanda, 2019). The general weakness with this planning model is that it requires a lot of time before positive results can be recorded. Some managers might ignore its relevance and consider modern strategies to ensure that positive outcomes are recorded.
The soft systems approach has emerged as a powerful model that managers and leaders can utilize to introduce additional changes and provide new solutions to wicked problems. The model remains relevant since it focuses on heterogeneous groups comprised of different stakeholders, including customers, community members, developers, supervisors, policymakers and employees (Schotthöfer, 2017). The concept is applied as a process whereby different participants receive adequate guidelines and ideas to find solutions to a problem that can be defined as complex. Due to the nature of the existing problem, the involved individuals begin to talk to one another and make appropriate adjustments (Rittel, 1973). Those who have the relevant expertise and knowledge will be involved to bridge the gap and find new solutions. It follows seven unique steps that might not be completed if a solution is found much earlier (Cordoba-Pachon, 2010). Additionally, it has a cyclical nature that empowers the involved individuals to repeat the process over again until desirable results are recorded. Compared with the other models, the systems approach appears to be the most plausible since it includes all stakeholders and provides an opportunity for them to present timely insights and ideas (Grimes, 2019). The other models fail to consider the involvement of some of the key participants and might take long without delivering positive outcomes.
The soft systems methodology has seven steps that all leaders need to consider in an attempt to find solutions to complicated scenarios or problems. First, the parties need to gather adequate and information that can inform or make it easier for them to appreciate the perceived wicked problem (Camillus, 2016). They will make appropriate documentation and conduct interviews from different parties. The company will have to monitor the established organizational structure and how it might be allowing such a challenge to emerge (see Figure 1). Second, the relevant leaders will describe and analyze the problem in a critical manner (Wilson and Haperen, 2015). They will create the right image, consider the possible causes, roles of different employees or leaders and the major departments that might be involved. Third, the company’s leaders will describe the ideal situation or functions that would support the targeted aims. All the systems supporting the operations of the organization should be considered during this phase. Some of these systems can include customers, actors, community members, environmental constraints and the established worldview (Maon and Sen, 2016). Fourth, the company will go further to design appropriate conceptual models that are capable of supporting each of the systems outlined in phase 3.
Fifth, the involved actors and leaders compare the designed conceptual models with reality. The ultimate aim is to understand how aspects and operations need to perform or appear in the real world (Bertain and Humphreys, 2017). This knowledge will make it easier for them to consider the best outcomes that can address the situation. Six, new changes can be introduced after being analyzed for effectiveness and feasibility. Seven, the participants will collaborate and take action in an attempt to solve a perceived problem. The concepts and ideas formulated during the sixth stages will be considered and implemented during this stage (Incropera, 2016). One aspect of this problem-solving tool is that it guides all the stakeholders to consider the importance of repeating the process again if there are no positive outcomes.
The above model is capable of supporting the targeted organization to get rid of the current wicked problem. The framework offers step-by-step guidelines that all leaders need to consider in an attempt to understand the nature of this challenge. There are specific aspects that make it applicable to this issue. The first one is that it acknowledges that all stakeholders have a role to play towards the development and escalation of the predicament (Kabeyi, 2019). This means that the outlined phases become an opportunity to learn more about their misbehaviors or inactions that might have led to the increased levels of pollution (Ries, 2017). The second attribute that makes it relevant is the fact that it presents several phases that promote evaluation and analysis of the problem. Stakeholders get a chance to be involved in every stage in an attempt to deliver long-lasting solutions to the selected challenge.
The third aspect associated with it is the ability to gather more than enough information at the very beginning of the problem. The involved persons will have to offer their ideas about the challenge and explain why it has occurred in such a manner (Rackley, 2015). This achievement makes it easier for the leaders to have a strong foundation for understanding the issue and eventually presenting practical action plans. The fourth factor that makes this framework relevant is the fact that it is cyclic in nature. The failure to find a common ground and introduce changes that can address the challenge means that the participants can purse the entire process once again (Wang et al., 2016). Such practice becomes a new opportunity to gather additional ideas, formulate new processes and experiment with additional strategies for delivering positive outcomes in a timely manner.
Focusing on the identified challenge of pollution and environmental degradation, the selected company will find this model useful to solve it and include all key stakeholders. While the model might not guarantee immediate success, it appears more superior and capable of delivering timely results to the organization (Wilton, 2016). The consideration of the grievances and the move to match them with the perceived reality is a powerful practice for considering possible action plans and the anticipated outcomes. Such an initiative will prepare the participants to solve some of the predicted barriers towards finding a common ground or solution (Sanyal and Hisam, 2018). The possible outcome is that the company will be willing to improve and redesign its business model.
Recommendations and Additional Considerations
The current wicked problem has the potential to affect the performance and profitability of the identified organization. The world is presently focusing on superior practices and initiatives that can protect the natural environment and be able to support human life in the future. Companies engaging in unethical practices pose a major threat to the sustainability of planet Earth. Policymakers, politicians, environmentalists and human rights activists have been involved in a new battle aimed at compelling both governments and business entities to protect the environment (Kouzes and Posner, 2017). The nature of this wicked problem means that the company might remain unsustainable and lose most of its customers in the near future.
The proposed soft systems model stands out since it focuses on this issue as a complex and intricate one that might not benefit from other frameworks. The best approach towards solving this issue is to introduce the approach and start by collecting adequate information about it. This will be followed by a detailed expression of the issue (Mayfield and Mayfield, 2017). The evidence will be analyzed in accordance with the positions and views of the key stakeholders. The leaders will go to the third phase of the theory to formulate the relevant definitions that revolve around the problem (Mathu and Phetla, 2018). For instance, they will consider how the problem impacts logistical partners, customers and employees. The current worldview will be worth noting to understand how the issue has external ramifications (Marquis and Huston, 2015). The individuals will go further to consider whether the existing practices, resources and employees are capable of making the relevant adjustments and changes. This approach will dictate whether the company has a new chance to achieve its aims.
The professionals will guide all the stakeholders to compose conceptual frameworks or models for each possible activity. They will go further to base such ideologies on business and environmental theories. The purpose of this practice is for the leaders to identify and acknowledge that their company has failed to conform to the expectations of the world (Rezaee, 2017). This will become a gap analysis for finding the possible tradeoffs and action plans that are informed by the nature of the problem. In the next phase, these actors will define possible changes that are capable of delivering positive outcomes. For instance, the company can experiment with a new business model that is capable of introducing sustainability initiatives (Majchrzak and Malhotra, 2019). The grievances and needs of external stakeholders will have to be taken into consideration throughout the process.
With the adoption of the proposed model, some counterproductive outcomes might be recorded in the selected company. For instance, the idea might affect the manner in which production is done, thereby resulting in reduced profitability. The company should, therefore, have a contingency plan to align the current procedures with the needed change without necessarily undermining the targeted level of performance (Abamu, 2019). Another challenge is the continuous objection to the change from the workers. The leaders can address this issue using a superior model (Kademan, 2017). For instance, Kurt Lewin’s theory will deliver positive results and eventually deliver positive results. With such countermeasures, more companies can pursue such a model to solve their wicked problems, remain sustainable and become leading competitors in their respective industries.
In conclusion, the company will take the necessary action by implementing the identified practices and business strategies that are aimed at improving the level of transparency and environmental sustainability. The organization will reduce its emissions and treat water accordingly before releasing it to the nearby river. A new concept of CSR will be merged with the formulated model in an attempt to take the organization closer to its aims. When all participants are involved, chances are high that a sense of ethical responsiveness will emerge and eventually overcome these wicked problems. The outstanding fact about the proposed model is that it allows leaders to repeat the process should they fail to implement the change successfully.
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