G.B. Reschenthaler & Fred Thompson
From an organizational vantage, the requisites of effective management vary considerable as the operational demands shift from normal more or less understood, routinized activities, to those
needed to assure confident responses to understood emergencies. Both these types of activities call for practiced processes calling for are array of needed skills, coordinating arrangements, accounting
techniques, and, in the end, structured organizational patterns that can be learned and transferred from one work generation to the next. They can also be interpreted to citizens and to institutional leaders, much as fire prevention and fighting requirements can be described to those who must authorize and pay for them. Effectiveness in realizing these capacities depends centrally on increased understanding of potential threat and the organizational actions needed to reduce and/or limit damage where the untoward happening to occur.
This includes reasonably well-ventilated knowledge about necessary functions, something about the conditions and wider environment that could inhibit or enhance administration of functions, etc., that is, a reasonable degree of certainty about what to do and the circumstances facing an organization in their doing. When there are well functioning organizational units that are able (with skills and resources) reliably to act on this understanding, public confidence is likely to be warranted.
These conditions are pretty fully met in most of what public organizations do, that is, normal operations. We expect these functions to characterize administrative systems generally – the bureaucracies we depend upon, even as commentators voice animus about the resulting highly predictable stasis . Indeed, efforts to provide “emergency services” take on many of these predictable qualities – qualities that also comfort both organizational members and the public as they (and we) seek reassurance in familiarity. Yet one of the lessons learned from reflecting on crisis experiences is that - a key condition orienting my contribution here.
In considering the requirements for emergency and crisis modes of management, I assume several background factors to which I shall return by and by:3
* Normal, emergency and crisis response capabilities (when they exist formally) are likely to be bundled together within the same organizations. That is, only a few organizations will see themselves as predominately crisis managers without significant emergency and normal organizational functions as well. This has important imperatives for the development of “multi-cultural” organizations.
3 These are introduced without justification. They can be addressed if there is a wish to do so. I invite conference members to add to this list.