1973 introduced a complementary perspective on problem formulation by

1973 introduced a complementary perspective on

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(1973) introduced a complementary perspective on problem formulation by suggesting that the boundary between well-structured and ill-structured problems is vague, fluid, and not generally tractable to formalization (see also Ramaprasad & Mitroff, 1984). Lyles and Mitroff (1980) were among the first to empirically establish the importance of problem formulation in the strategic management literature. Among other contributions, they usefully developed process and problem typologies in their exploratory study. Cowan (1986) took the discussion from an organizational level to an individual level, concentrating on problem recognition characterized by three general stages: gestation/latency, categorization, and diagnosis, all of which are affected by limits to cognition. Existing Empirical Work. Among the few empirical articles published on strategic problem formulation, Lyles (1987) examined criteria for strategic problem formulation: clarity, politicality, and complexity. Although the effects of these were not tested against performance outcomes, the study suggested that there exist specific factors exist that influence problem formulation outcomes, notably, awareness of processes and attendant biases. In the study, it was noted that “early studies on problem formulation indicate that executives are, in fact, aware of the SPF process and can articulate the activities involved” (Lyles, 1987, p.
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266). Also, while the findings suggest a need to unpack problem formulation processes, concrete roles for bias awareness, and distortions (bias) in problem formulation are not specified. More commonly, empirical studies using a problem finding/problem solving logic concentrate on testing a logic of problem solving. For example, in an empirical work on problem-attributes Macher (2006) provided support for Simon’s theory on different organizing requirements for solving ill- versus well-structured problems. Notwithstanding the emphasis on problem solving, Macher’s work provided useful insight for problem formulation by usefully shifting the unit of analysis from the industry, firm or transaction, to the problem (Lyles, 1987, Felin & Zenger, 2014).
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  • Spring '11
  • Staff
  • Nickerson, strategic problem, Literature of Strategic Problem Formulation

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