COVID-19: Not a problem to solve, but a problem to manage
COVID-19: Complex Problem Solving in the Real World – A case for Managing Messy Problems. What can leaders of complex projects do to manage similar messy project problems?
All over the world, coronavirus responses revolve primarily around the dreaded curve of COVID-19 infections. Coronavirus modelling shows that many governments are getting the balance right – if our aim is to flatten the curve.
However, that’s not the whole picture. COVID-19 is a global Systems of Systems problem, a so-called intractable problem for which there is no simple and efficient solution (no one right answer). As the word is rapidly discovering, narrowly focusing too much on flattening the infections curve without considering a holistic or systemic approach to the problem context will result in severe economic (and other) consequences.
“Perhaps the real problem here is an inaccurate problem context identification or framing.”
This apparent approach to problem solving appears to follow a win/lose trajectory where there is a trade-off between more lives being saved (win) prolonging the negative economic impact in the form of more jobs, businesses, homes, livelihoods being lost (lose). Put another way, the dominant logic appears to be ”Either/Or” thinking.
Perhaps the real problem here is an inaccurate problem context identification or framing. Global infectious disease pandemics such as COVID-19 (and all other ‘messy problems’) should not be viewed as ‘problems to solve’, but rather as ‘problems to manage’. Problems to solve typically present what appear to be a choice between two perceived opposites. In the case of COVID-19, this can mean community health vs the economy. That is, we are forced to consider saving, on the one hand, as many lives as we can OR on the other hand, as many jobs/businesses as we can.
“By framing the problem context with an understanding of dealing with interdependent pairs in a complex and adaptive system, leaders will quickly see that their actions need to equally consider (balance) BOTH community health AND the economy in a virtuous cycle rather than a vicious cycle.”
While policymakers the world over are supporting vulnerable households and smaller businesses to mitigate the economic impact of this pandemic through various economic stimulus packages, the up-side and down-side does seem to be out of balance at the moment especially when the action steps (social distancing to flatten the infections curve) on one pole of this polarity appear to aggravate and/or is the cause of the negative economic impact on the other pole.
By framing the problem context with an understanding of dealing with interdependent pairs in a complex and adaptive system, leaders will quickly see that their actions need to equally consider (balance) BOTH community health AND the economy in a virtuous cycle rather than a vicious cycle. Effective leadership and decision-making requires proficiency in seeking and integrating multiple interdependent perspectives through “Both/And” thinking, as well as proficient problem solving with “Either/Or” thinking. The key is being able to know which problem context is present, and when and how to respond accordingly.
What can project leaders do to manage similar messy problems encountered at the project, program or portfolio level?
To learn how to manage more effectively in messy problem contexts, book your project team on the Managing Messy Problems online training workshop.
Managing Messy Problems
with Polarity Mapping
Schedule: Please fill in the form below to schedule a time convenient for you and your team
Format: Online Interactive Training Workshop
Duration: Two Hours
Price: $155 Non-Corporate Partner, $108.5 Corporate Partner per person incl. GST
Minimum of 8 participants
Certificate of Completion Included
The ICCPM Managing Messy Problems Online Workshop introduces Polarity Mapping as a way to understand the sometimes hidden forces of opposing values (interdependent pairs) at work in organisations and people. You will learn how to surface these forces, map them graphically with a tool called the Polarity Map, and how to manage them. Polarity Management helps leaders and their organisations to more efficiently and more sustainably reach their goals.
WHO IS THIS ONLINE WORKSHOP FOR?
This online workshop is an interactive training course designed for leaders, managers, and supervisors dealing with complexity and seemingly intractable issues.
Slots are limited. Discounts are available for ICCPM Members
In this two-hour online training course, you will learn to:
Recognise how the value of interdependent pairs in projects/organisations and individuals come in polarity
Approach intractable problems as polarities to manage rather than problems to solve
Identify particular polarities that need to be managed in your project/organisation
Use the Polarity Map as a way to visualise and diagnose current project/organisation reality
Identify early warnings and action steps that can be managed through the Polarity Map
Gain practice in using Polarity Thinking and the Polarity Map Graphic
- Non-Corporate Partners: $155.00 incl. GST per person
- Corporate Partners: $108.50 incl. GST per person
- Minimum of 8 participants
ICCPM is committed to fair and transparent application of fees and charges as well as the processing of refunds where applicable. Carefully read our ICCPM for detailed information pertaining to course refunds.