Wicked Problems of a Metal Manufacturer Essay

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Wicked problems often crop up when organizations have to face constant change or unprecedented challenges. They occur in a social context; the greater the disagreement among stakeholders, the more wicked the problem. In fact, it is the social complexity of wicked problems, as much as their technical difficulties, that make them tough to manage. —Camillus (2008, p. 100) Leadership is about the ‘management of meaning,’ and that leaders emerge because of their role in framing experience in a way that provides the basis for action; that is, by mobilizing meaning, articulating and defining what has previously remained implicit or unsaid, by inventing images and meanings that provide a focus for new attention and by consolidating, confronting or changing prevailing wisdom. —Smircich & Morgan (1982, p. 258) In life as well as in business, problems often involve many parties, change context on a daily basis, and have more than one possible course of action. The literature calls these problems wicked problems. Consider the various parties, or stakeholders, who may be impacted by the decision of a metals manufacturer, whose waste products have been linked to health problems, to enter a new geographic region. There are positive impacts for job creation, but also potential negative impacts like pollution and public health. There are business, political, and social (health care) stakeholders and those impacted will have varying perspectives on whether the new plant is a positive or negative addition to the community. Politicians may look forward to the possible economic benefits, while healthcare professionals and activists might protest the manufacturer’s potential entry. As a leader in such situations, your role will be one of shaping meaning and providing a framework in which those impacted can see the benefits of your proposed course of action. You will need to

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