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Organisational Uncertainty

Every type of system can find itself in a position where it has lost ‘sight’ of itself. This is, to a certain extent, the norm for people, teams and organisations. For a long time, it appeared a great advantage of technical systems, a characteristic of which are clear internal causal chains, that they were always capable of self-diagnosis and knew in which condition they found themselves.

The more complex technology becomes, the more they lose this advantage and become (once again), a part of a world in which they must be ready to deal with the unexpected, with dangers and ‘disruptions’. Therefore, when there is no place in the system which has an overview, then such a system requires ‘alternative complexity’ (“If in doubt, we shall search for the parts in the store manually!”). However, one can also reckon with surprises in advance and then one is in the area of “Managing the Unexpected” (K. Weick) or ‘Agile Procedures’ (such as Scrum). If the unknown and the new, the disruption and the mal-adjustment become part of the system, then the system requires a larger supply of ‘complexity management’ which can be activated in a crisis (fire brigade, task forces, crisis meetings, store rooms, storage systems, emergency plans, coordination meetings etc.). If such resources are reserved for the (unlikely) case of such external crises, a completely different situation arises than if the crises were (according to plan) caused internally.

The more a system reckons on uncertainty in the form of crises (including self-generated ones), the more the ability to recognise the crisis situation is required. The latter is addressed with concepts such as attentiveness or mindfulness.