The resilient organisation: introduction

March 23, 2011

Yesterday I talked briefly about the need for a prepared mind, and a prepared organisation to ensure the fast detection, fast recover, early exploitation capability required in creating the resilient organisation. It was a casual posting in part intended to pull in a couple more participants for the   Frankfurt seminar on the 1st April (my birthday by the way, see the sacrifices I make, sob) and Amsterdam the week after. In those seminars I am exploring this subject in more detail by both teaching and discussion. The series continues in Copenhagen and the US during April by the way, with the Washington event focusing on government and NGOs. by the way.

Now as is often the case a casual posting produced a fair amount of interest in the twitterverse so I decided to produce a short series of posts on these. Each will be illustrated by graffiti from the streets of Naples, one of my favorite cities in Italy as it has a constant sense of being alive, uncertain and on the edge of sudden change for either good or ill.

Now when you say that we should prepare ourselves to handle an uncertain future most people agree without a problem, the trouble comes when you try and explain just how major a shift in thinking this is going to me. For starters you don’t prepare for future uncertainty but following recipes based on case studies of what has succeeded in the past. Best practice is generally past practice and suffused with the seductive opiate of retrospective coherence and apparent safety. Many a reader of the airport Management how it was done books has fallen for the charms of the lotus eaters. I often see these books as examples of detective fiction, the author can decide who did it, while scattering multiple clues to mislead the curious reader. With the benefit of hindsight the final denouement allows the hero/heroine to show their genius by connecting the dots. Being wise after the event is only too easy, seeing patterns of causality in past case studies is too often an example of fundamental attribution error, confusing correlation with causation.

However true preparedness requires us to create structures designed to cope with future not past uncertainty; we can learn from that past, but it does not constrain or contain the future. So in this series of posts I will look at how we do this under the headings of my three principles of complexity based management namely:

  • The use of finely grained objects (this will be two posts, one on organisation objects, the other on information & narrative)
  • Distributed cognition, creating and using human sensor setworks
  • Disintermediation which means enabling the direct contact between decision maker (which can be a ritualised collective identity as well as an individual or committee) and raw material without interpretative layers.

Now this compliments my earlier series on the aged workforce and one post will overlap with that so I will signal it at the time.

Explanatory note: I have been without internet contact for five days so these posts will go up with retrospective dates in a haphazard pattern over time but in the correct sequence.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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