On 28 November 2010 I read two articles. At first glance, these 2 articles were not related to each other. But by remixing them in these weblog, they now are!
I just read an article in the Guardian about the leaked US embassy cables. This article is a terrifying account of current global relationships. However, it also includes an interesting passage which can be linked to the ability of organisations to share knowledge.
Many reports on how the 9/11 attacks could be avoided were emphasising on better information and knowledge sharing among the different intelligence agencies. Therefore, information and knowledge sharing became key in counter-terrorism. More than 5 years after these reports were being published, we can see how intelligent agencies try to become better in information and knowledge sharing, but completely dismiss the interwoven complexities of an environment that promotes information and knowledge sharing. One of these complexities is the culture. And it is obviously that the US intelligent agencies thought they could continue their Cold War culture in a interconnected global world where information and knowledge sharing are so important. The article describes this as follow:
Asked why such sensitive material (the US embassy cables) was posted on a network accessible to thousands of government employees, the state department spokesman told the Guardian: "The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath revealed gaps in intra-governmental information sharing. Since the attacks of 9/11, the US government has taken significant steps to facilitate information sharing. These efforts were focused on giving diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to more data to more effectively do their jobs". He added: "We have been taking aggressive action in recent weeks and months to enhance the security of our systems and to prevent the leak of information".
So, this example of leaking information and knowledge is massive failure from the US (which hopefully will not have any international consequences). It shows that it is not an easy task to just say: and now we will embrace better information and knowledge sharing. In many cases - and probably especially in the case of US governmental agencies - existing systems need to be rebooted first. These Cold War systems cannot embrace the structure and culture of an interconnected and co-evolving system. But from this article it becomes clear that the US intelligent agencies did not want to reboote their way of thinking about organisations. They continue their old thinking by programming ways to 'enhance the security of our systems' rather than that they approach their organisation as a complex system
This brings me to my final comment. At the same day I also read Dave Snowden's latest weblog post of chickens and eggs. In this post he writes:
People make bad systems work by working around them, the problem is that this disguises failure for too long. So when the system does fail, it fails catastrophically ... (and)... Systems that evolve are more successful in managing people than ones that are designed in the abstract.
I think that Dave Snowden perfectly outlines the catastrophically failure of the US intelligent agencies. Furthermore, he also writes that 'at all cost massive and complete re-organisations should be avoided in all cases other than those of catastrophic failure'. So, now that the US government made a catastrophic failure: where will the re-organisation occur?