All in support of one of my objectives for 2011 – to encourage community and the discussion and learning that will come from these community engagements.
Today’s discussion is on the World Conference on Disaster Management group at LinkedIn. The discussion was started by Adrian Gordon talking about the recent spate of disasters – and of course promoting their conference.
Amy Lee observed that organisations seemed to be struggling to learn, despite the number of serious disaster that had occurred recently. Which prompted me to respond with these thoughts;
Organisations are not learning. People may be learning some new skills, but Martin seems to be supporting Amy’s point. There is profit to be made from Emergency Prep today, but apathy will return tomorrow. The natural order restored?
My bet would be on looking in two areas for reasons. Amy’s point about the ability to detect weak signals may perhaps be a third area.
First, anecdotally, we in the BC/DM world tend to keep ‘fighting the last war”. Conventional wisdom and accepted practice keeps limiting the events we prepare for. Until something major happens, then everybody jumps on the bandwagon of something as a new area of risk. There were a number of people in this industry looking at loss of buildings and people before 9/11 – but it was considered strange and unneccesary.
Until recently nobody seems to have drawn a connection between earthquakes and tsunami – and heaven forbid that an earthquake would make the ground move, take out utility power and have the hide to rattle our backup power system so it didnt work. Reason called it the ‘Swiss Cheese” risk model and Perrow called them Normal Accidents.
The risk/BC industry just ignored it as low probability.
Second reason why our orgs are not learning, and to take an academic perspective, I would suggest we look at the work of Argyris and Schon in respect of single loop and double loop learning. In single loop learning we keep the ‘governing variables’constant but look for another way to satisfy. This governing variable is the acceptable limit we are trying to keep within.
Perhaps for many organisation who are not learning that is the perspective that BC/DM is simply a compliance or governance process.
Double loop learning means we apply scrutiny and the potential for change to this limiting variable. This would mean that we address the orgs underlying norms, policies and objectives – not just tinker with response plans and hot sites.
In order to do that, we need to make these limitations visible, and often they are not. Or perhaps theses are two perspectives of the same problem – hindsight simply makes the limitation visible and forces us to change our view.
Do you have a perspective on how to improve organisational learning?
Is your organisation learning from these various disasters?
Please come and join the conversation.