Home Leadership Solving Wicked Problems: Getting Things Done (Part 2)

Solving Wicked Problems: Getting Things Done (Part 2)

by Miguel Guhlin

In the previous blog entry in this series, I shared that solving wicked problems involves different approaches, each of which will be received differently by your supervisor or those with the power to pay for an expensive project. This is part two in the series.

Speak to an administrator at the cabinet level, and they all have one expectation: “Keep it to  one page.” A one-page document can make all the difference, and I can honestly say that I have had hundreds of thousands of dollars funded through a well-written executive summary submitted to superintendent level staff.

Scenario #1 – Insufficient Power

“When the power poles in the computer labs were put in, the maintenance department failed to connect the power.”

“Wait!” the technology director asked surprised. “Are you saying that all these power poles do not have power in them? Are you just daisy chaining the power from one outlet?”

“Yes,” replied the media specialist. “That is exactly what we have had to do. As you can guess, we can’t put as many computers in this room as we would like. And I’m worried about overloading power. Isn’t that unsafe or something? I’ve told my principal, but she doesn’t have the money to get it done and it should have been done when they built the school several years ago.”

In this scenario, there are several issues. The first is that the maintenance department failed to connect the power. The second is that no one followed up for years to address the issue when it was fresh, plus  the temporary/permanent solution may be unsafe or result in greater damage to the campus’ infrastructure. The fourth, and most important, consequence is that the lab cannot be used at full capacity, preventing students from taking advantage of the computers. In fact, some of those computers have been moved out of the lab because there is insufficient power.

Something needs to happen. The answer to this scenario involves an executive summary focused on getting things done.

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Note the brevity, as well as the key elements, of the Executive Summary below:

Executive Summary for Ardent ISD High School Campus Electrical Needs


The Ardent ISD High School campus currently has several computer labs. However, each lacks critical electrical connections. The lack of electrical connections prevent full utilization of the computer labs, impacting their use for high stakes assessments:

Room #


Network Drops Needed and 48-Port Switch



Standalone Lab (30)

Window 10 OS

4 drops

Has electrical poles installed, but no electrical outlets. Electrical outlets are in the floor, which presents problems for consistent use.


Standalone Lab (30)

Window 10 OS

5 drops

Same electrical challenges as Room 321

Staff Impact

Staff who employ the computer labs adjoining library.

Student Impact

All students at the campus would be affected.

Budget Available

Campus has not identified funding for infrastructure needs.

Professional Learning

Not applicable


Improved network support and responsiveness, upgraded lab.


Campus; Maintenance Department; Technology Department

Why is this necessary?

High School campus labs lack electrical connections needed to “complete” the labs. Inadequately wired rooms have consequences on performance of equipment and reliability.

What happens if we don’t implement?

High school campus labs will continue to face electrical issues caused by poles that were never wired for electrical. Furthermore, new equipment will sit unused in the labs.

Potential summary of costs are as follows (estimated since quotes are not yet available):

  • Electrical in Labs: $1,000 (estimate)

How will we measure success?

All labs will be at 100% utilization and have functional network and electrical connections.

When will this happen?

This is scheduled for the 2016-2017 budget year.


In the next blog entry, we will explore another approach to getting projects funded out of existing budgets: the Standard Proposal.

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