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Collaborating Around Wicked Problems. Chris McGoff Touchstone Consulting Group Institute Touchstone.com. Key Points. Most projects in organizations are “wicked problems” The process is opportunity-driven Fragmenting forces have and will tend to pull projects apart

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collaborating around wicked problems

Collaborating AroundWicked Problems

Chris McGoff

Touchstone Consulting Group Institute

Touchstone.com

key points
Key Points
  • Most projects in organizations are “wicked problems”
  • The process is opportunity-driven
  • Fragmenting forces have and will tend to pull projects apart
  • Needed: anti-fragmentation (coherence creating) tools

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

traditional wisdom
Traditional Wisdom
  • All projects proceed through a sequence of steps or phases, e.g.
    • Perception, Definition, Analysis, Generation of Alternatives, Evaluation, Decision Making (Straus, 2002)
    • Problem Definition, Requirements Gathering, Requirements Analysis, Functional Specification, High-level Design, etc. (traditional waterfall)

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

how we humans actually approach novel problems
How We Humans Actually Approach Novel Problems

Problem

Solution

Time

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

how we humans actually approach novel problems5

Early attempts at solutions

    • Experiments
    • Prototypes
    • Hunches
  • Late efforts to understand the real problem
How We Humans Actually Approach Novel Problems
  • Problem solving is Opportunity-Driven

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

wicked ill structured problems
“Wicked” (Ill-structured) Problems
  • You don’t understand the problem ‘til you have a solution
  • Many stakeholders
  • Changing constraints
    • $$, time, players
  • Run out of resources

Versus "Tame Problems"

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

slide7

How We Humans Actually Approach Novel Problems

Problem

Solution

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

social complexity
“Social Complexity”
  • The number and diversity of stakeholders (players with a stake in the outcome)
  • Kinds of stakeholder diversity:
    • Individual differences in character and learning style
    • Professional differences in expertise and language use
    • Different organizations and departments represented (“stove pipes”)
    • Differences in role and authority
  • Each additional stakeholder adds to density and complexity of information flow

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

implications of odps wicked problems
Implications of ODPS & Wicked Problems
  • Sequence is a (useful) fiction.
    • No linear process will be adequate
    • White water kayaking and bungee jumping are good preparation
  • Neither Top-down nor Bottom-up works
    • Solutions & actions drive learning … do some implementation at the beginning!
    • The implementation details are unimportant (they will change) – the conversations around them are what matters

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

implications of odps wicked problems 2
Implications of ODPS & Wicked Problems (2)
  • Resist the temptation to limit stakeholders
    • Wicked problems can be tamed, but doing so reduces the robustness of the solution
  • Focus on the planning process, not The Plan
    • Planning activity can create shared understanding and shared commitment
    • Capture and manage open issues, high-confidence assumptions, decisions.

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

implications of odps wicked problems 3
Implications of ODPS & Wicked Problems (3)
  • Chaos is normal.
    • From a Command/Control perspective collaboration looks like chaos (ODPS)
    • Find textured ways to create order
      • E.g. Diverge/converge cycles
  • Good process is essential
    • Event/session planning, logistics, food
    • Facilitation … Critical when diverse stakeholders need to collaborate

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

how to deal with a wicked problem
How to deal with a wicked problem?
  • Pay much more attention to relationships and communication …
    • Collaboration tools (synchronous & asynch)
    • Iterate
    • Stakeholder communications (“marketing”)
  • “Shared display” (group memory)
    • Honor the limits of human cognition
    • Compendium, a tool for capturing complex conversations in meetings

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

slide13
“It ain’t what people don’t know that hurts them, it’s what they do know that ain’t so.”

Mark Twain

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

dialog mapping
Dialog Mapping
  • Creates shared display for meeting discussions
    • Helps group capture and explore questions, ideas, pros & cons, and other informal knowledge
  • Focuses group attention, without imposing arbitrary or linear structure
  • 3 Elements: Facilitator + Display + IBIS

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

ibis the deep structure of conversation
IBIS:The Deep Structure of Conversation
  • The basic elements of design conversations:
    • Questions
    • Possible answers (Ideas)
    • Arguments (for and against Ideas)
  • Criteria for a facilitation/mapping grammar:
    • 1) simple to do on the fly
    • 2) easy to learn
    • 3) illuminates deep structure of the conversation
    • 4) increases communication and rigor + clarity of argument reasoning

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

the fundamentals of ibis
The Fundamentals of IBIS

Question: A topic or problem to be explored and answered.

What should our word processing standard be?

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

idea a possible answer or solution to the question

Word

WordPerfect

Excel

Idea: A possible answer or solution to the question

What should our word processing standard be?

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

argument a statement for or against an idea aka pro or con plus or minus

+

MS Office

Word

+

WordPerfect Mode

Legal standard

+

Retrain non-users

-

Accounting memos

+

Argument: A statement for or against an idea (aka Pro or Con, Plus or Minus)

What should our word processing standard be?

WordPerfect

Excel

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

finding hidden questions

+

MS Office

Word

+

WordPerfect Mode

Legal standard

+

Accounting memos

Retrain non-users

+

Excel

Finding hidden questions

What should our word processing standard be?

WordPerfect

-

Excel

What should our spreadsheet standard be?

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

lunch location exercise
Lunch Location Exercise

“I’m in the mood for ribs, so let’s have lunch at Bub’s Barbeque.”

“Dave is a vegetarian, so I think we should go to the Tofu Palace instead.”

“They have a great salad bar at Mama Mia’s.”

“Yeah, and I can get a good burger there too. Let’s go.”

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

paired facilitation exercise
Paired Facilitation Exercise
  • Pair up – Pick who is Facilitator, who is Client
  • Client: Pick a serious problem you’ve been thinking about. Starting describing it.
  • Facilitator: Start writing down, in IBIS, the key elements:
    • Questions, Ideas, Pros and Cons
  • Keep showing your map to the Client, get their OK that you’re getting it right.

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

a few tips
A few tips …
  • Seed the map before the meeting (questions)
  • Write big and clear enough for everyone to see (or set QM Preferences | Font)
  • Keep moving your attention between the group and the display
    • Validate each comment with the speaker
  • Listen for the questions (often unspoken)

© 2005 CogNexus Institute

further information
Further information …

http://cognexus.org

Download Compendium

Reading:

“Wicked Problems and Social Complexity”

“The Age of Design”

“Designing Organizational Memory”

© 2005 CogNexus Institute