Wicked problems: implications for public policy and management

Head, Brian W. and Alford, John (2015) Wicked problems: implications for public policy and management. Administration and Society, 47 6: 711-739. doi:10.1177/0095399713481601

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Author Head, Brian W.
Alford, John
Title Wicked problems: implications for public policy and management
Journal name Administration and Society   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0095-3997
Publication date 2015-08-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1177/0095399713481601
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 47
Issue 6
Start page 711
End page 739
Total pages 29
Place of publication Thousand Oaks CA, United States
Publisher Sage Publications
Language eng
Subject 3312 Sociology and Political Science
3321 Public Administration
1406 Marketing
Abstract The concept of “wicked problems” has attracted increasing focus in policy research, but the implications for public organizations have received less attention. This article examines the main organizational and cognitive dimensions emerging from the research literature on wicked problems. We identify several recent approaches to addressing problem complexity and stakeholder divergence based on the literatures on systems thinking, collaboration and coordination, and the adaptive leadership roles of public leaders and managers. We raise some challenges for public management in some key functional areas of government—strategy making, organizational design, people management, and performance measurement. We argue that provisional solutions can be developed, despite the difficulties of reforming governance processes to address wicked problems more effectively.
Keyword Wicked problems
Complex problems
New public management
Problem solving
Risk and uncertainty
Public policy
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Institute for Social Science Research - Publications
Official 2016 Collection
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 78 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 92 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Thu, 16 Jul 2015, 19:40:23 EST by Professor Brian Head on behalf of School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies