$850 million. By relying on its identity, rather than on financial projections, Campbell made the decision to sell Godiva
quickly and painlessly.
Focus on action. In a world of Newtonian order, where
there is a clear relationship between cause and effect, companies can judge what strategies they want to pursue. In a
wicked world of complex and shadowy possibilities, enterprises don’t know if their strategies are appropriate or what
those strategies’ consequences might be. They should therefore abandon the convention of thinking through all their
options before choosing a single one, and experiment with a
number of strategies that are feasible even if they are unsure
of the implications.
To pick a starting point, executives can borrow a leaf from
policy makers. Bureaucrats focus on the few actions they will
be able to take rather than the myriad options before them,
Yale University’s Charles Lindblom pointed out in 1959. Doing
so enables policy makers to analyze options quickly and make
decisions that meet the goals of several constituents. Calling it
the science of muddling through, Lindblom argued that over
time, governments will make progress by constantly making
small policy changes. In a similar way, companies can formulate strategies that will deliver results in various scenarios –
I call these robust actions – and use Pareto analysis to prioritize a small number of them that will produce the most
impact. That’s what PPG Industries does – as shown in the
exhibit below, “PPG’s Framework for Responding to Wicked
Issues,” and described later in this article.
However, even executives willing to embark on a number
of robust actions often become indecisive when they realize
that every response to a wicked issue will alter the problem
the company faces and necessitate another change in strategy.
They keep analyzing the issue rather than doing something
about it. They would do better to try out some strategy as
a starting point; the consequences will give them a better
handle on the real problem they face. So, to tackle wicked
PPG’s Framework for Responding to Wicked Issues
PPG Industries develops strategies after seeking and
documenting stakeholders’ assumptions, preferences,
and alternate views. It evaluates the appropriateness of
the strategies it draws up against its statement of identity
and continually scans the environment and tests assumptions to see if it needs to change course. The assessment
of possible scenarios helps PPG formulate new options,
and its managers apply Pareto analysis to identify a small
number of actions that are likely to have a large impact.