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PostThoughts on Emergency Preparedness, Organizational Change (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 11/16/14 5:32 am)
The 11 November posting from Rodolfo Neirotti addressed a subject close to home: "Business Innovation and the Management of Change." Indeed, "preparation is everything," and this wisdom "is applicable to almost everything in life." Rodolfo stated, "the leaders of some organizations fail to identify key problems and act before things turn catastrophic," because "they don't want to see, they can't see, because the group isn't designed to see, and there are other people who are doing their best to keep them from seeing--motivated blindness."
Based on my 50 years of experience studying the management of organization change, trying to integrate the academic knowledge with what actually goes on in practice, I have noted one critical dimension which Rodolfo does not address in his posting: the degree or intensity of the change required. Ranging from the slow and continuous change needed for organizations to improve under the prescriptions of Total Quality Management (TQM), to more "dramatic changes" prescribed under Business Process Reengineering, to the even more dramatic changes necessary under severe crisis management, where many people are risking death, such as in the last Ebola crisis.
My most effective model (empirically tested in the manufacturing, hospital, and banking sectors) indicates that the likelihood of success in change management can be improved by preparation in four major areas: the right kind of leadership, awareness/knowledge of the environment surrounding the organization, the organization's ability to manage relevant technology broadly defined, and the characteristics of the change process used to implement the required changes. I have not studied severe crisis management, but I venture to say some new factors may be important. Similarly, most of what is relevant to manage slow change has also been found important for increasing success managing more dramatic changes. The main difference is as the uncertainty, risk, and intensity of required change grow, so does the importance of leadership at the strategic and project levels.
Trust in the leaders and other group members is not sufficient for success in managing change, but it has been found to be absolutely critical for efficient (quick) implementation of solutions. Please note that trust is the antithesis of the CYA syndrome discussed by John Eipper, of poor communication within the group, and of perceived dishonesty.
Last, Rodolfo mused about "applying these concepts to Iraq and Afghanistan," and how "it would have [saved] many lives and saved billions of dollars." For these disasters our leaders indeed failed "to identify key problems and act before things turn catastrophic."
However, it is not applicable that "they don't want to see, they can't see, because the group isn't designed to see." The American people told the Bush/Cheney neocons not to stay in Afghanistan and not to invade Iraq, but the American people were lied to and deliberately ignored. Finally, regarding "there are other people who are doing their best to keep them from seeing--motivated blindness," the statement in this case is spot-on: the media chicken hawks did their best to fool the American people but failed, but the neocons went ahead anyway. In the case of war, President Eisenhower was right: beware of the military-industrial complex. I like to add: beware of being a pawn for global business interests disguised as American companies.
JE comments: Has anyone bought President George W. Bush's new book, 41: A Portrait of My Father? I heard a couple of GWB interviews last week on National Public Radio, and it appears that after a six-year sabbatical, Bush 43 is now energetically working on his legacy. From the snippets I heard, GWB is willing to offer a few "mistakes were made" half-excuses, but he stands firmly by his position that in the wake of 9/11, US national security absolutely required the removal of Saddam Hussein.
Organizational behavior under crisis is a fascinating topic. It always gets me thinking: what would happen to WAIS if IT Director Roman Zhovtulya and I were hit by the same bus, or by different buses at the same time? David Duggan, it's time for more training on the care and feeding of our website. (I don't plan to go near any buses, but it's best to fix the roof while the sun shines: does anyone else volunteer for potential WAIS crisis management?)