Think of the unexpected events that we’ve had to deal with in the past ten years that have impacted every aspect of our profession and how we operate:
• Bombing of USS COLE
• 9/11 Attacks on our homeland
• Hurricane Katrina
• The Christmas Tsunami in South East Asia
• The Financial Collapse of 2008-2009
And now think of the unexpected events that occur on a smaller scale that we deal with every day.
Why is it some organizations and commands are much more capable than others of maintaining function and structure in the face of drastic change and appear to be able to bounce back in a stronger posture to tackle the next unexpected crisis?
The authors seek to answer that question by studying the ways people and organizations organize for high performance in settings where the potential for error and disaster is overwhelming: emergency medical treatment teams, aircraft operations systems, wild-land firefighting crews, and aircraft carrier flight decks.
These organizations have no choice but to operate reliably, under great stress, every day. One common element these HROs have is an uncommon skill at finding ways to stay MINDFUL about what is happening.
Developing this institutional MINDFULNESS is important – HROs organize themselves in such a way that they are better able to notice the unexpected event early in the making and either halt its development or quickly develop a containment plan. If the unexpected event breaks through the containment, HROs focus on resilience – bounce back – and swift restoration of system functionality.
Another important point made in this book was the increased susceptibility to unexpected events of organizations that are tightly coupled and interactively complex. A tightly coupled system or organization has little slack – actions in one part of the system directly and immediately affect other parts. Organizations dependent upon interconnected technologies or interconnected resource demands (e.g. “just in time” logistics) are tightly coupled and very vulnerable to an unexpected event that will proceed rapidly and irreversibly though the entire system.
I found this book to be extremely relevant on several levels and equally applicable to those on sea duty or shore duty, serving in small units or large ones, or in large commands like USFF or smaller commands like our Navy Munitions Command. At the heart of a reliable and resilient organization is a powerful culture built around practices that work.
It’s not enough to be knowledgeable of the principles that underlay institutional MINDFULNESS; it is also important that the organization’s culture weaves the principles of MINDFULNESS into values, expectations, and norms that drive local practices. These practices are what enable MINDFUL organizations to hold complex undertakings together or respond rapidly and effectively to unexpected events because they truly understand what is happening.
This book is a great read – well-written, relevant to our profession and our operating environment, and thought provoking. I strongly recommend it to you.
MANAGING THE UNEXPECTED
RESILIENT PERFORMANCE IN AN AGE OF UNCERTAINTY
KARL E. WEICK AND KATHLEEN M. SUTCLIFFE