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G.B. Reschenthaler & Fred Thompson

 h. Mix of information for                            only public (1)        equal mix (3)          mainly (5)

     diagnosis, remedy.                                   information            public/classified      classified

The four varying conditions range in:

The overall magnitude for these crises ranges from :

Devastating (1), to Destructive but not debilitating (4), to Irreversibly Destructive (3)                         

The speed they unfolded ranges from:

Abrupt, rapid onset (1), to one that is expected to become apparent within two management generations (say 14 years) (3), and another not expected for four or more political generations, 24+ years) (4).

The duration of effects of these crises is perceived to range from:

            Only a short time (5-10 years) (1); to a moderate 10-20 years (3) to stretch  

                         indeterminately into the future for many management generations. (5)

The information needed to respond/recover ranges from:

           Information fully available from public sources (1), to sources that are mixed equally          

           from public and classified sources (3), to those that are mainly from highly classified     

           sources (5).

Now consider in your analytical mind’s eye, the dynamics that would unfold if a crisis, say, of  mix A or B or C, were to be visited upon an administrative and political culture that interests you (and you know well).8

Each of these mixes of conditions suggest different institutional dynamics, perhaps different emphases of skills, decision processes, and very likely relations with stake holding groups – in situations were the challenges has been experienced before.  Even limited, prior experience would have very likely resulted in the development of at least some emergency response capabilities. This would have lead possibly to a sense of anticipation and perhaps some practiced capacity to deal with the sorts of hazards associated with the feared events.  But crises are by definition rude surprises, novel, surprising circumstances that seem likely to overwhelm existing capacity. They present unexpected challenges in the sense that intrinsically there cannot be much forward planning for the particulars that could not have been predicted.

When the challenges are threatening, rude surprises  – with say these different factors or characteristics (at least for the organizations that feel obliged to respond), then how do these cases spin out in the settings you know best? From what theoretical/conceptual basis can you/we derive expectations for the institutional challenges associated with them?

8 Readers will note that the factors in these three cases vary mostly ordered from more to less intensity. This is for simplicity’s sake in exposition.  Patterns that scramble the intensity of these factors is probably more realistic and analytical more interesting – though much more demanding.

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