Three Different Types of Managerial Problems

The role of the manager contains many different tasks but one that is common to all managers, regardless of sector or organisational type, is the ability to solve problems.

Some problems are more challenging than others, some are complex and detailed, some are relatively basic but with big implications if you get things wrong.

The most successful managers are those who can quickly diagnose the type of problem and the best way to resolve it.

Basically, in management terms, there are only three types of problem, each of which requires a clear management response. They are:

  1. Tame problems: these are complicated but resolvable, likely to have occurred before and there is generally a limited degree of uncertainty about the issue. Here the manager’s role is to provide the appropriate processes to solve the problem.
  2. Wicked problems: these are complex and inflexible, novel and with no apparent easy solution. The Wicked problem has the tendency to generate more problems with or clear right or wrong solution, just better or worse alternatives. This is made worse by the high level of uncertainty around the problem and any possible remedies. Here the leader has to ask the right questions rather than providing the right answers, since the nature of the problem requires a very strong level of collaboration and co-operation.
  3. Critical problems: this is a crisis situation where an urgent response is needed with little time for decision making. It is essential here to manage the resolution through clear decision making to provide a decisive answer to the problem.

Use the framework above to focus your approach tom problem solution – wherever possible allow your team to deal with Tame problems, saving your energy and focus for Wicked and Critical questions.

Good Luck!

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