Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Leadership in Crisis: The Winograd report

An expert management consultant gave his views on the Winograd report. Dr Sydney Engelberg considers that it is a problem in crisis management. Notes from the lecture include:
Leadership in a crisis situation: competency of the leadership is paramount in dealing with a crisis. It must firstly build an environment of trust in the population, to allay fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
It needs the creation of an expanded mindset when dealing with a crisis.
One must be able to identify not only the obvious, but also the obscure vulnerabilities which caused the problem in the first place. One must look ahead and identify obscure threats before they eventuate.

But even the obvious vulnerabilities were not identified. For example, the bomb shelters were not necessarily well maintained; they were inadequate for the population who were sick, infirm or immobile; not sufficient thought was given to those who would need special care and the government should not have relied on the good graces of an individual to create a tent city in the South for the refugees from the North. They should have provided it immediately.

Wise decision making is necessary. An embarrassing situation evolved with government paralysis ! Taking courageous actions and risk taking are all part of efficient crisis management, but these were not forthcoming.
The above is the same as saying the government did not function, which everyone in Israel could see. For that, I am not sure I needed an expert opinion. There is something to the "expanded mindset" comment though. Olmert always impressed me as a very pedestrian type. If there is a routine job to do, and it is clear what must be done, he will do it competently. If he has to chart his own vision or his own course, it is doubtful he would be able to do it. On the other hand, Olmert certainly did some risk taking, getting into a war for which he was unprepared. Evisdently, he did not have the imagination and understanding to realize that he was taking any risks, however.  
The notes continue:
The Northern border has been quiet for a longer period than for the last 40 years;
A man fell off the top of the Empire State Building. As he was falling, someone asked him, from the 50th story, how it was going. He said, "So far so good." History is about process and direction. It is not so relevant if the northern border is quiet.
The notes of our blogger conclude:
The army is already well on the way to rectifying the errors of the Lebanese war; 
We don't know that that is true until it is tested. We have heard about these corrections in the past, after every war.
The biggest problem I have with the whole approach is that the failures of the Lebanon war indicate a system failure, not something correctable by better management and tinkering with personnel: government and society failed almost all along the line, except for bravery and resourcefulness of individuals. That is the real lesson of the Winograd report, that is contained in the final paragraph, and which everyone wants to avoid. The ministers and officers bear formal responsibility, but the failures were due to decisions of previous governments as well as their own, and to actions of media, of local officials and of citizens. For example, there should not have been a crying, hysterical lady evacuating the north, but these things happen. Certainly she should not have been shown on television even once, but she was shown repeatedly! The defense budget was cut in previous administrations. But the budget was cut because citizens wanted less taxes. Everyone knew the budget was being cut and understood the risks and said nothing. Everyone knew that Amir Peretz was not qualified to be defense minister, but none of us did much about it. And now, everyone understands that Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz must resign, but few are doing much to make it happen.
Ami Isseroff 
Cross-posted:   Israel News  Middle East Analysis

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