Author: Christopher Ziemba, PMP
For our 2022 Project Management Conference, PMI Switzerland warmly welcomes Bodo Giegel, Business Head Europe at PMI, to introduce us to The Wicked Problem Solving Toolkit. Do not let the word “wicked” throw you. Unlike Shakespeare’s famous line, referenced in this article’s subtitle, wicked in our context is not evil, but rather it indicates that we want to solve problems that are both serious and complex in a collaborative way. Project Management is fundamentally about solving problems and it is on the most serious and complex problems where innovative strategies can have the biggest impact.
The increasing complexity of modern work, projects and problems has driven PMI to partner with Tom Wujec, a leader, author and speaker on the subjects of technology, creativity and visualization, to develop and now offer the Wicked Problem Solving Toolkit, an innovative problem solving strategy based on visualization and collaboration.
I asked Bodo to provide me a bit of a preview for his session and to share some of his thoughts on the project. Let me say first, that I enjoyed our conversation very much. I could sense Bodo’s enthusiasm through the video call and I expect this will be more apparent in person. He is himself quite an authority on innovation, teamwork and collaboration, based on his rich history as a project manager, consultant and key account manager. I would say secondly, that I am now hooked. I look forward to attending this event and exploring how I can put these tools to work on my own projects.
In the words of Tom Wujec, “Wicked Problem Solving is a simple scalable visual system that helps people become dramatically more effective as creative leaders and modern problems solvers. It teaches three fundamental principles of creative collaboration. It teaches how to organize work into effective Plays and it teaches how to find a path to pick the best possible Plays. The concepts can be taught quickly. They can be applied to a vast range of business situations, and they can help teams run better meetings, untangle deep complexities and lead important change.”
A “Play” is the basic building block of Wicked Problem Solving. As described in the supporting program materials, a “Play” involves the three fundamental principles:
- Leading with a key question – a clear articulation of the problem we’re seeking to solve.
- Making ideas visible – creating a shared visual representation of the issue to help team members think through the problem. We mean this literally. Wicked Problem Solving is highly visual; we seek to get to the essence of the problem through drawings.
- Engaging with tasks – laying out an activity to help teams work through and solve the problem.
A Play is run in a time bound manner. Depending on the complexity of the problem and question this varies, but usually it takes 15-30 minutes to run a Play.
Wicked Problem Solving is a form of collaborative exercise. It is a very different manner of work to which many of us may be accustomed. Bodo explained to me how this can work very well with a Miro Board, how it can be done well in-person, but also remotely, or a combination of the two. As we discussed further, a key characteristic of this strategy for Bodo, and for me as well, is that it is an investment in your team. Instead of bringing in an expert to tell you how to solve a problem, Wicked Problem Solving enhances the collaboration and the productivity of the existing team, empowering them. Having input from different perspectives is essential, and visualization and time limited exercises enable different perspectives to be recognized more effectively.
I asked Bodo about how this effort has been received in the industry. He told me that the project is still in the early stages of deployment, PMI Switzerland is at the cutting edge, but that one company, which has strategically embraced Wicked Problem Solving, is Nagarro SE. They do not seem shy to discuss their experience. Nagarro is an information technology and digital product engineering company based in Germany, with more than 500 million euros in revenue in 2021 and more than 17,000 employees spread across 32 countries. Martin Hack, Global Head of Consulting at Nagarro has commented on the program, “At Nagarro we are striving to solve complex business problems with technology. For doing that, we identified the Wicked Problem Solving training material as a foundation on top of our own methodology…” He continues to say, “For us, Wicked Problem Solving is a complete operating system for creative collaboration.” Bodo explained further that Nagarro has already trained 500 of their consultants in Wicked Problem Solving and that these numbers will go up by the end of this year.
I suspect the numbers of Wicked Problem Solvers will also be going up across PMI Switzerland. A great place to get started is to join Bodo Giegel in Zürich on September 21, 2022 for his Keynote at our 11th Project Management Conference. I would like to thank Bodo one more time for speaking with me about the event, and I look forward to meeting you all there.