Wicked Ways Of Managing Wicked IT Problems

Dorothy Knew How To Deal With Wicked Problems
Dorothy Knew How To Deal With Wicked Problems

Wicked IT problems can frustrate even the best of us – by their very nature, wicked IT problems have no solution (that’s why we call them “wicked” and not just “hard”). As we talked about last time, although you may not have the tools to solve these types of problems, you do have the tools needed to manage them. However, the key to dealing with problems like this successfully is to involve the entire IT department (yes, these problems are really that big). Let’s talk about how you’d go about doing that…

The first department-wide step that you’d need to take is to get everyone to focus on taking action. In traditional problem solving, we think though all of the possible strategies that we could execute and then pick the one(s) that we think will solve the problem. Sorry – that approach doesn’t work when you are dealing with a wicked problem. Instead, what you need to be doing is some experimenting. Specifically, choose a collection of strategies that you think MIGHT work and start executing on them. This approach actually has a name it’s called the “science of muddling through“. One thing that you’re going to have to keep in mind is that every action that you take to deal with the wicked IT problem will cause the problem to change. Remember, we’re dealing with a wicked problem here!

Finally, you need to take the hardest step. You need to implement what is called a “feed forward” process for your IT department. We are all very familiar with feedback systems where we compare the results of our actions to our original plans and then change our actions accordingly. Once again, bad news – feedback won’t help you to deal with a wicked IT problem, instead  you are going to need a feed forward solution. A feed forward process requires IT management and workers to take the time to imagine the IT department in the future. The future should be defined as being 5, 10, 25, and even 50 years down the road. The goal of this process is to picture what the IT department will be like, and then to determine what steps need to be taken today in order to move the department towards that goal.

So there you have it – ways to mange your wicked IT problems. Remember, when you enecounter a fustrating IT problem, there is always the chance that it may be a wicked problem. These types of problems can’t be solved and so you’re going to have to practice some wicked management…

Have you ever encountered a wicked IT problem? Did you try to start multiple strategies to deal with it all at once? How did this turn out for you? Have you ever had your IT department try to imagine how the department will look in the future? What did you do with this vision? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking…

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