September 28, 2012
The MIT Sloan Management Review has described well the managerial issues
that I see with clients. Dealing with people is complex and requires critical
thinking skills more than following formulas or models. Learning how to better
deal with people side of business is one of the reasons I studied Organizational
Management in graduate school instead of getting an MBA. Please share your
thoughts with me on the article below.
"In a period of rapid technological and business change, successful executives
particularly need the ability to think critically—and to be aware that some of
their most cherished assumptions may at any point be challenged or invalidated
by changing events. Consider, for example, how many financiers’ optimistic
assumptions about the markets for securitized subprime mortgage assets
were challenged by the meltdown of those markets and the financial crisis
Today’s executives need to be able to address complex, messy problems.
As the late organizational scholar Russell L. Ackoff once put it, “Managers
don’t solve simple, isolated problems; they manage messes.” Ackoff was
also instrumental in defining the nature of such messes. According to him,
a mess is a system of constantly changing, highly interconnected problems,
none of which is independent of the other problems that constitute the entire
mess. As a result, no problem that is part of a mess can be defined and solved
independently of the other problems. Accordingly, the ability to manage messes
requires the ability to think and to manage systemically; this in turn requires
that one understand systems thinking.
In organizations, successfully addressing complex, messy problems also
requires constructive conflict and structured debate with others to help test
one’s assumptions— and help ensure that one is not solving the wrong
problem. Many business schools excel at teaching young managers
well-structured models, theories and frameworks. But we believe that
business schools should spend more time helping their students surface,
debate and test the assumptions underlying each model, theory or
framework they are learning about. In this way, by developing students’
critical thinking skills, universities would prepare young business leaders
to succeed in a messy, uncertain world."
Ian I. Mitroff, Can M. Alpaslan and Richard O. Mason, The Messy Business
of Management, MIT Sloan Management Review, September 18, 2012.