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Tackling Wicked Government Problems

Tackling Wicked Government Problems: A Practical Guide for Developing Enterprise Leaders

Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 2
Pages: 250
  • Book Info
    Tackling Wicked Government Problems
    Book Description:

    How can government leaders build, sustain, and leverage the cross-organizational collaborative networks needed to tackle the complex interagency and intergovernmental challenges they increasingly face?Tackling Wicked Government Problems: A Practical Guide for Developing Enterprise Leadersdraws on the experiences of high-level government leaders to describe and comprehensively articulate the complicated, ill-structured difficulties they face-often referred to as "wicked problems"-in leading across organizational boundaries and offers the best strat-egies for addressing them.

    Tackling Wicked Government Problemsexplores how enterprise leaders use networks of trusted, collaborative relationships to respond and lead solutions to problems that span agencies. It also offers several approaches for translating social network theory into practical approaches for these leaders to build and leverage boundary-spanning collaborative networks and achieve real mission results.

    Finally, past and present government executives offer strategies for systematically developing enterprise leaders. Taken together, these essays provide a way forward for a new cadre of officials better equipped to tackle govern-ment's twenty-first-century wicked challenges.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2640-1
    Subjects: Management & Organizational Behavior, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 The Enterprise Leadership Challenge
    (pp. 1-16)

    Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar?

    In the midst of a hurricane, communications and organizational breakdowns force a Coast Guard officer to step in and try to coordinate the disaster relief efforts of an alphabet soup of federal, state, and local agencies. The National Guard, a host of nongovernmental agencies like the Red Cross, and even citizen volunteers are all trying to do what is right but according to their own and often conflicting rules of engagement. And the only ones the officer actually commands are the relatively few uniformed “Coasties” who report directly to her.

    The Defense...

  5. Part One: Contemporary Enterprise Leadership Challenges

    • 2 Leading the National Security Enterprise: Some Personal Observations
      (pp. 19-28)

      The need for leaders who can reach across organizational boundaries, unify the efforts of multiple agencies, and drive them to achieve results—in other words, what this book defines as enterprise leaders—has never been more apparent. I saw this firsthand as our country’s second director of national intelligence (DNI), where I was charged by Congress and the commander in chief to make the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) actually act like one. In the aftermath of 9-11, this was not just an academic exercise—it was a national security imperative.

      However, this was not the first time the nation needed...

    • 3 Collaborating to Honor Our Veterans
      (pp. 29-36)

      In August 2011, President Barack Obama called on the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) to lead an interagency task force in close consultation with White House policy councils and other federal agencies, including the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Education, and the Office of Personnel Management, to develop proposals to maximize the career readiness of all servicemembers. This DOD-VA Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force is one element of the president’s comprehensive plan to support our nation’s veterans and provide the assistance they need to transition from military to civilian life while at the same time...

    • 4 Confronting Complexity and Creating Unity of Effort through Enterprise Leadership
      (pp. 37-44)

      The year 2015 will mark the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall and the fifth anniversary of the accident at theDeepwater Horizonmobile drilling unit, which produced the largest maritime oil spill in history. While both occurred near each other in the Gulf of Mexico, they were two distinctly different events: one disaster was natural; the other, man-made. Still, both required the kind of leadership and organizational responses across the federal enterprise that are fundamental to addressing the large, vexing, and sometimes unprecedented challenges that seem to loom with greater frequency in our world.

      Consider how Malaysia Airlines Flight...

  6. Part Two: What Makes for an Effective Enterprise Leader?

    • 5 Leading the Enterprise through Network Governance
      (pp. 47-56)

      Rick Thomas was in his fifties and a GS-15 working for the Department of Defense’s Test Resource Management Center when one of the great challenges of his career was foisted upon him: he was asked to improve the management of U.S. missile ranges. His charge was to increase operational effectiveness while lowering cost, but the odds of success were not good. A 1989 congressional study indicated that low operational performance and excessive costs plagued the missile launch ranges. Indeed, the Test Resource Management Center was created in part to improve performance and reduce cost. More recent studies, however, indicated that...

    • 6 Critical Connections: Driving Rapid Innovation with a Network Perspective
      (pp. 57-74)

      In recent years, it has become clear to governmental agencies that innovation is essential to improving their ability to adapt quickly to increasingly complex problems. Solving these problems requires that leaders bring together a depth and breadth of expertise—from both inside and outside federal agencies. Yet rather than facilitate fluid collaboration throughout an agency, most efforts to drive innovation stem from the myth of the single, blinding insight. The idea of a brilliant employee or sequestered working group creating the next panacea remains the dream of many agencies as well as private sector organizations. We are seduced by the...

    • 7 Leadership in a Networked World: How to Accelerate Organizational Change and Improve Performance
      (pp. 75-88)

      Many organizations face the challenge of being able to communicate and collaborate across division or agency boundaries. Professionals spend their careers learning the policies, procedures, and culture of one agency, which makes it difficult for them to understand their peers in other agencies. For example, a career FBI officer may find it difficult to understand why CIA officers do some things the way they do. This problem is often referred to as the “silo” problem, a metaphor for the uniqueness and separation of each division within an agency from one another. This chapter approaches leadership from a network perspective to...

    • 8 Leveraging Networks through Boundary Spanning Leadership
      (pp. 89-104)

      That’s a great picture of our network showing all those connections, and we see some disconnects too, but I have to ask, what do we do now?Howdo we improve our networks and leverage connections to increase innovation?” These are questions we often hear from leaders who are viewing dramatic visuals depicting the network of relationships among their employees. Facing limited resources and complex challenges, they see a clear need for greater interagency collaboration and cooperation. Most accept that they simply have no choice but to work across boundaries to achieve their mission and goals. Thus it is clear...

  7. Part Three: An Enterprise Approach to Leadership Development

    • 9 Building a Culture of Executive Collaboration
      (pp. 107-118)

      My current federal senior executive position in the Department of Veterans Affairs as executive director of the Leading EDGE program provides me with an interesting perspective on building and developing government-wide collaboration leading to improved enterprise leadership. The President’s Management Council (PMC)—consisting mostly of cabinet-level deputy secretaries and some agency administrators, with the director of the Office of Management and Budget as chairman—approved the launch of an executive leadership training and development program called Leading EDGE: Executives Driving Government Excellence. Leading EDGE was inspired by the complexities and pressures of today’s government, which increasingly require new levels of...

    • 10 Developing Enterprise Leaders: The Case of the U.S. Intelligence Community
      (pp. 119-140)

      In this day and age, where crosscutting, “wicked” problems are the norm for many senior government executives, the case for developing more net-centric, enterprise-focused leaders—leaders who are able to overcome bureaucratic stovepipes to achieveinteragencyunity of effort—is compelling. However, in a federal government that looks more like a holding company than a seamlessly integrated enterprise, that turns out to be far easier said than done, often pitting the equities and interests ofindividualagencies against those that represent theircollectivemissions.

      The challenge is not just with overcoming organizational parochialism and politics, though as documented in the...

    • 11 Interagency Rotation Programs: Professional Development for Future Enterprise Leaders
      (pp. 141-152)

      Wicked problems—entrenched, complex, multifaceted issues—require collaborative solutions. Collaborative solutions require leaders who can think and act across organizational lines. How then do we equip our government leaders with the tools to work across agency boundaries to achieve what is best for our nation?

      While conducting research at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on interagency collaboration in the national security arena, we found that job rotations were often cited as a powerful tool to develop enterprise leaders: agency executives who understand strategic goals, problems, and prospective solutions from a big-picture, whole of government perspective.¹ One of our reviews focused...

    • 12 Reinventing the Senior Executive Service as an Enterprise Asset
      (pp. 153-161)

      Throughout the early part of the twenty-first century, the United States has continually faced major challenges that have been historic in their complexity, scale, and ownership by multiple nations and organizations. The sophistication and global nature of these challenges have resulted from numerous current societal and environmental factors: technological advances have made the world smaller by efficiently connecting vast numbers of organizations and individuals across great distances, commonly establishing and enabling larger, more complicated, and more collaborative ventures; evolutions in business, trade, economic development, and foreign relations have increasingly generated issues and impacts cutting across multiple nations, creating far more...

    • 13 Meeting the Enterprise Leadership Challenge
      (pp. 162-180)

      If there is one thing that is abundantly clear from the research that led to this book, it is that wicked government problems—that is, those complex, crosscutting national challenges that require the integrated efforts of multiple government departments and agencies—are here to stay. No longer the exception to the rule, they are becoming the “new normal” for many federal managers and executives, most of whom are ill-prepared for them.

      Our government indeed is fortunate to have enterprise leaders like Mike McConnell, Thad Allen, and Pat Tamburrino, as well as Steve Shih, Ron Sanders, and Jim Trinka, all contributors...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 181-188)
  9. Index
    (pp. 189-197)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 198-198)