Saturday, September 26, 2009

Resilience in Human Systems

While not directly about Katrina, the web magazine People and Place has an article "Six Habits of Highly Resilient Organizations" that addresses the issue of resilience in human systems. The key point is that people have the capacity for foresight but social structural demands for short-term results often result in inadequate attention to the longer term. Thus, in the case of Katrina, the powers-that-be were well aware of the catastrophic potential of a hurricane hitting New Orleans (FEMA ranked it as the most dangerous natural catastrophe facing the US, even more problematic than a major earthquake in southern California). But, despite this awareness, proper precautions weren't taken. The article provides some insight into why that wasn't the case:

"successful, resilient organizations are those that are able to respond to two conflicting imperatives:
• managing for performance and growth, which requires consistency, efficiency, eliminating waste, and maximizing short-term results
• managing for adaptation, which requires foresight, innovation, experimentation, and improvisation, with an eye on long-term benefits
Most organizations pay great attention to the first imperative but little to the second."

The article also provides some suggestions for improving the resilience of human systems:
1. Resilient organizations actively attend to their environments.
2. Resilient organizations prepare themselves and their employees for disruptions.
3. Resilient organizations build in flexibility.
4. Resilient organizations strengthen and extend their communications networks – internally and externally.
5. Resilient organizations encourage innovation and experimentation.
6. Resilient organizations cultivate a culture with clearly shared purpose and values.

1 comment:

  1. This is great, Kyle. You've helped my research hugely.