G.B. Reschenthaler & Fred Thompson
produced an unexpected matrix of puzzles, too many to explore in moderate length.)
Two qualities of crisis situations, a) the wide variety of “crisis properties,” and b) the unusual degree of uncertainty about the particular mix of these conditions a crisis that may present to the institutions that are galvanized to respond, highlight the need to develop means to embrace potentially dreadful surprise within an overseeing environment which honors false starts as well as systematic learning. To the degree this assertion is defensible, what analytical vectors result?6
As a next step, suppose in a thought experiment one varies combinations of the eight (8) factors in Table 2 (each varying along a five (5) point scale). Then imagine the institutional dynamics that might follow if “crisis combination” a or b or c, ... occurred within “operational and political contexts” x, y and z (vary as you wish). Here is a brief try (in the spirit of a brief memo).
To make this manageable for our conversation, let us:
Hold four factors constant and vary four, say, in three mixes. (Table 3).
Assume for each crisis there is: Strong consensus that it is very serious (factor a). Its effects are likely to regional in scope (d) with patchy knowledge about its causes and effects (f) provided by competing but credible sources of information. With these in mind, consider the institutional dynamics in the face of three novel, surprising crises that vary in the following ways (scored on a five point scale, 1-5):
Table 3. Factors Parsed - those held constant and those varied.7
Factor Strength (1-5) for case
a. on seriousness of the crisis (2);
d. of effects (2);
f. of causes and consequences (3); and
i. of useful information (3)
A B C
b. Overall magnitude devastating (1), destructive (4) destructive (2)
not debilitating but irreversible
c. Speed of crisis unfolding abrupt, rapid (1) expected w/in 2(3) slowly over (4)
mngt generat. 4+ pol generat.
e. Perceived duration of effects short term (1) moderate (3) indeterminate(5)
5-10 yrs 10-20 yrs mgt generat.
6 Set aside, for the moment the current nearly zero likelihood of such organizational norms.
7 See the appendix for a more formal display of these factors.