Project Definition and Wicked Problems

Michael Whelton1 & Glenn Ballard2

1Ph.D. Student, Construction Engineering & Management Program, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, USA, whelton@ce.berkeley.e
2Adjunct Associate Professor, Construction Engineering & Management Program, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, USA, ballard@ce.berkeley.edu

Abstract

It is now almost 30 years since Horst Rittel coined the term “wicked” for ill-defined problem sets which are too complex to be solved by rational systematic processes. To what extent today’s industry practice has adequately come to terms with such problems still remains open to discussion. This paper is concerned with team decision making during project definition, understood as the phase in which the design task is defined and its constraints are established sufficiently to launch design development. The concept of wicked problems is applied in an effort to improve project definition processes. Based on collaborative argumentation and reflection processes, a project learning model is proposed to better manage the resolution of wicked problems in project definition. Particular emphasis is placed on considering project definition as an adaptive process that incorporates project change through the co-evolution of problem formulation and solution generation.

Keywords

Design management, organizational learning, project definition, stakeholder complexity, wicked problems.

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Reference

Whelton, M. & Ballard, G. 2002, 'Project Definition and Wicked Problems' In:, Formoso, C.T. & Ballard, G., 10th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Gramado, Brazil, 6-8 Aug 2002. pp 375-387

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