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G.B. Reschenthaler & Fred Thompson

There are two derived proposition that could be of interest here, examples of what would be generated above in the variations in the conditions of crises exercise.  I state these in a bald form

with a promise to explicate them if anyone is interested.

* The more productively efficient the organizations called to respond to a crisis, the less

capable they will be deal with untoward surprise.

* The higher the consensus about the seriousness of the crisis and the need for rapid response, the more likely serious errors will be made.

(There is another quality about “crisis management” considerations that confounds: the likelihood that any particular network of institutions will only very infrequently actually experience a crisis. And with each crisis, these institutions are likely then to incorporate what lessons they have learned into the suite of emergency processes they practice. The result would be that the potential for recombination in the face of unlikely next crises would remain fairly low.  A corollary to this is the difficulty of maintaining the institutional energy and resources necessary to carry out what learning has been recognized in responding to surprise for one generation to the next if such surprises are suspected to be pretty unlikely.  Why prepare to respond to surprises that are unlikely to confront you?  And your overseers know it...what then?  Another version of “life is short....”)

A final aspect in this theme has to do with the role of overseers in effectively managing to be rudely surprised - relationships between responders and overseers in the interest of anticipating surprise.  Much of what public institutions do is sharply affected by the behavior of political overseers and legislatures.  What roles do agency or ministry leaders and legislatures play in assuring the institutional conditions needed to respond repeatedly, and effectively to serious surprises?

There is a good deal known about how the dynamics of political overseers work to

constrain, sometimes paralyze agency behavior – precisely the reverse of what would be needed in the

face of surprise.  Considerable work is needed on the potential for overseers’ norms that would increase the likelihood of institutional flexibility and novel cooperation.  Two aspects come to mind, noted here without elaboration.

* Changes in accounting practices to reward, under defined conditions, flexible institutional responses.  These would allow for a better understanding of how unauthorized expenses without formal review could be incurred rapidly without fear that in the aftermath of the crisis that those who provided

“unauthorized ” assistance would discover they could not be reimbursed.  To the degree this is expected – and is believed to have occurred - it is the basis for what one might call the “bean counters lament”, reluctant cooperation and  residual institutional bitterness.

* Understanding the affects of media behavior (themselves performing an overseeing function) on inhibiting institutional cooperative, ad hoc response to rude surprises.

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