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Wicked Problems in Large Organizations: Why Pilot Retention Continues to Challenge the Air Force

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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This monograph in military studies investigates the makeup of and approach to complex problems, with a case study on the Air Forces enduring struggle to retain fighter pilots. The research question asks what key considerations should large organizations, like the US Air Force, focus on when approaching complex problems. The hypothesis of this paper is that large organizations must strive to best understand the issue, its root cause, and available assets within the given time restraints. They should consider, and when possible, test, how solutions will affect the specific problem and the future of the organization itself through research, reflection, and long-term observation of implemented solutions. The first section covers numerous aspects of organizational theory and wicked problems. Next is an explanation of the vision and mission of the Air Force, its current priorities, as well as a short, recent history of the pilot retention problem. Following that is a case study on the work done by the Air Staff in 2015-16 in regards to this complex problem, with analysis on the process as it compares to the hypothesis of this monograph. It shows that their recent approach, unlike those of the past, is in line with the hypothesis and appropriately working towards viable solutions. Finally, the conclusion summarizes lessons learned through this research about approaching wicked problems.

Subject Categories:

  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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