The ongoing infrastructure debate calls to mind the term “wicked problem” from a noted supply chain management text*.
A wicked problem involves multiple stakeholders, each with different interests and values. As a result there is no single common goal , no clear mission, and no universal solution. Any solution, after being implemented, will generate waves of consequences and can result in making the problem worse. A suggested framework for tackling a wicked problem consists of 4 levels of increasing complexity:
Level 1- Process Engineering and inventory management– This is the engineering approach focusing on what is being carried (work, cash, information) and process design within and between organizations. Risk management is about improved visibility and control.
Level 2- Assets and Infrastructure- This is the insurance and financial approach. Nodes and links are examined and strengthened to avoid disruptions along the supply chain.
Level 3- Organizations and Inter-organizational networks– this is strategic level problem solving involving outsourcing, partnering, and offshoring.
Level 4- the Macro Environment- This level uses PEST (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological) analysis of environmental changes. Issues include green and legal/regulatory as well as geo political factors.
We can consider supply chain to be strategic while logistics is more tactical. Global supply chain problems are complex and involve all of the above levels. Logistics problems can usually be managed within Levels 1 and 2.
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*Global Logistics & Supply Chain Management by John Mangan, Chandra Lalwani, Tim Butcher, and Roya Javadpour