Monday, July 6, 2015

9/11: A Strategic Shift For My Agency

  1. Focusing on the four strategic styles(classic, adaptive, shaping and visionary), listed by Reeves et al in their article, “ Your Strategy needs a Strategy,”   I reflected on one significant strategic change that my organization went through since I began working there. I have worked for a federal law enforcement agency for over 16 years.  Similar to corporate stalwarts such as IBM or Ford, my agency is a large bureaucratic organization that has been in existence for over 100 years and has always taken the classic approach to strategy development i.e. working in a predictable environment (bad people do bad things, and we investigate, arrest and prosecute them) but having a hard time for the organization to change.  This formula, developed years ago and slowly refined over time was turned on its axis after September 11, 2001. 

    The actual investigation into how the September 11th attacks unfolded relied on my organization’s traditional adaptable skills  which made my agency a global leader in law enforcement.  Although perceived as large and lumbering at times, my agency has the uncanny ability to drop everything in an instance and focus its collective efforts on a singular task.  This built in flexibility enables this large bureaucratic organization to successfully implement short-term strategies by linking decision making with the operations.   

    The 9/11 Commission concluded the following failures of my agency: its inability to manage and analyze data properly prior to the attacks and a failure in inter-agency coordination and intelligence sharing.  Almost overnight, resources were shifted from the traditional criminal investigations (bank robberies, drugs and organized crime) into new joint terrorism task forces.  Hundreds of professional analysts were hired from industry and the military.  Prior to the attacks, many of the intelligence analysts working in my agency had typically worked their way into those positions beginning as new hires working in the mail room or closed files.  Major decision-making responsibilities on terrorism matters were taken from the field offices and managed from headquarters.   Inter-agency coordination and de-confliction became a priority with every field office creating a joint terrorism task force made up of representatives from local, state and federal agencies. Similarly at the Headquarter level, the Terrorism Screening Center and Counterterrorism center were created.  I had been with the agency for 2 years prior to the attacks so I really had an appreciation for this ground- breaking endeavor. 

    As my agency continued to develop short-term strategies, our Director, who had only been on the job for two months before the attacks, began to also implement long-term strategies focusing on work-force development and retention.  Prior to the September 11 attacks, most managers and executives were trained internally using a classroom setting at our law enforcement academy.  After the attacks, a virtual training program was initiated enabling employees to complete training on their desktop. Funding was secured to enable personnel to seek and obtain professional graduate degrees from top-notch universities such as the Carnegie Mellon University MIST program that I have been fortunate to be enrolled in. Efforts were made to change the system on how managers were promoted and how assets were distributed around the country.  Student loans, secured prior to employment with the agency, were paid off to keep personnel from leaving for hiring paying private sector jobs. 

    I should also point out that Reeves et al noted that there was often considered a fifth strategy style called “survivability.”  While this style does not lead to long term growth, I can assure you that after the attacks, my executive managers were certainly in survivability mode as they quickly examined and worked on correcting the faults of the organization so as to be able to answer to 9/11 Commission, Congress and the President.

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