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Monday, August 15, 2005

The four lessons of how MCOs survive in a Crises

Unfortunately, most organizations repeat mistakes when faced with crises. But there's one type that seems to be above this - mission critical organizations (MCOs). Here, Kevin Desouza highlights four important characteristics of MCOs and explains how they use KM to
rise above potentially detrimental mistakes.

Lesson 1: Simulate often and imaginatively - MCOs engage their tacit knowledge by conducting routine simulations, which allow people to get acquainted with distant realities and provide them a way to test their reflexes to the new environment. These simulations have three purposes: to keep everyone alert and focused; to help internalize knowledge and generate automated responses; and to test the fragility of the organization by pushing extremes or pressure points.

Lesson 2: Create flexible knowledge architecture with flexibility. MCOs can organize, dismantle, and reorganize their assets quickly with minimal disruption to overall operations. This ability is valuable in terms of managing crises, as resources can be
immediately diverted to areas of concern. There are two factors to create a Flexible Knowledge Architecture: having knowledge redundancies - essential to mobilize knowledge quickly and fill knowledge gaps during a crisis - and a mentality of constant
disruptions to put everyone on their toes.

Lesson 3: Root-cause analysis, not Band-Aid fixtures - MCOs take great care to conduct postmortems after a crisis, which are used to study how and why the overall system failed, what the root causes of the failure were, and how to fix them. Writing postmortems should
be ingrained in the organizational fabric and written upon completion of projects. Organizations should implement incentives to encourage project managers, directors, managers, etc. to review prior engagement reports before embarking on new projects. In this
way, the chance of repeating past failures is avoided.

Lesson 4: Harp on the organizational mission - Unless employees have an intrinsic understanding of the mission, the essence of organization will be lost. Too often, mission statements are Someone's glorified words of what the purpose of the organization should be. So they can be outmoded and distinct from the everyday realities of the organization. Mission statements need to be brought down to reality. Then measure and evaluate employees
against how well they contribute to the organization's mission.

Source: Excerpted from "Vital dimensions of Mission-critical organizations" published in KM Review, 2005.

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