Rebuilding Organisations after Shocks

28 Apr

When an organisation encounters a catastrophe, it needs to rebuild afterwards. When the catastrophe is reviewed, quite often the analysis of human decision making and the system is subjected to blame- who is responsible?

This response leads to not only an increase in procedures and processes; it can also lead to a fall in confidence and the long term erosion of skills. Fear of blame ensures that people follow procedures, but what happens when a procedure is tested to the limit or rapidly becomes obsolete? This is where expertise and experience should take over, the ability to improvise during an extreme test.

Improvisation requires confidence and expertise; if an overly rigid adherence to procedures is followed then improvisation gets driven out in a trade off with avoiding potential blame. Unfortunately this also results in a fall in standards, it’s a risk paradox- avoiding the risk of blame creates a build-up of organisational risk as standards fall due to a lack of confidence in improvisation, people stop trusting their skills and experience. Improvisation and its results should modify and adapt organisational procedures, procedures shouldn’t suffocate improvisation.

Strict adherence to procedures may seem like a good idea on the surface level, especially after an organisational catastrophe. However, this approach also creates a brittle organisation, risks build up until they literally break the organisational structure. A better way is to teach and encourage improvisation when procedures are tested. This not only builds a stronger more resilient organisation, it also develops more resilient, confident and risk aware staff.

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