I first read Lindblom’s paper, “The Science of Muddling Through,” in a comparative systems political science class. It appealed to me then and after more than forty years, it still does. He did a good job of exposing the logical extreme of the rational model as ridiculous, at least in government. At the same time, he used terminology for his incremental model that made it difficult to publicly embrace. As a city planner, I could decry “disjointed incrementalism,” to try to get elected officials to look a bit further into the future, but had he called it coherent accumulation, I would not have ever had a chance. After fifty five years, many of his examples still seem quite relevant.
This post is based on a July 2009 paper, “Strategic Decision Making Paradigms: a Primer for Senior Leaders,” that was written by Col. Charles D. Allen and Dr. Breena E. Coates both of the Army War College. Although much in the paper has been touched upon in prior posts, it summarizes several models for strategic decision making, and includes some with which I am unfamiliar. It is public sector oriented it includes some good examples related to the defense of the nation. It also sets the stage for another post on muddling through. Strategic decisions entail “ill-structured, “messy” or “wicked problems” that do not have quick, easy solutions. They often end in so called “error of the third kind”, where complex problems are often addressed with a correct solution to the wrong problem.