A Systems Approach to Crisis Preparedness and Organizational Resilience

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Organizational Dynamics 672 Course Information / Syllabus

Take a broad view of the world around you -- a systems view -- and you'll see it racing, accelerating even, toward precipitous cliffs. The world as we know it will not last sixty years; it may not last six.

Survival in every sense will depend on awareness, understanding, preparation and resilience.

Educational Objectives

1. Awareness of:

  • crisis as a part of life and social systems
  • macro-level crises that could effect you
  • organizational/individual crisis vulnerability
  • types of organizational crises
  • group, family and individual crises

2. Understanding of:

  • nature and phases of crisis
  • what to do before, during and after a crisis
  • crisis psychology / decision-making
  • security strategies-anticipation v. resilience
  • Skills, models and practices of resilience
  • systemic vulnerability/systemic resilience

3. Enhance ability to:

  • think critically
  • develop expertise
  • adopt a systems perspective
  • articulate and communicate your thoughts cogently, concisely and compellingly

4. Apply course-related knowledge to be able to sucessfully foresee and weather crises.

General Educational Philosophy

Useful assignments: The effort you put into getting a degree represents a significant portion of your life and a very large proportion of time not obligated to family or employer. As such it's precious, and the time spent on assignments should reflect that value. So I strive to help you to do useful assignments. But this does require you to reflect on what would be of value.

Adaptable syllabus: One way I try to provide the opportunity for students to maximize the value of the course is through a flexible, adaptable syllabus. If there is any topic you want to cover or anyone you'd like to invite, I try to make that possible. I also try to incorporate relevant current developments and unique opportunities.

Critical thinking / Collaborative learning: A quote that I admire: ”The educated person is not the person who can answer the questions, but the person who can question the answers.” It's important to not simply learn what an author or speaker says, but to think critically about it, to challenge as appropriate, and to bring your experience to bear on the question.

Sensemaking: Courses such as these are not simply about transmitting a given body of knowledge; it's about reflecting on important questions, looking at the big picture and making sense of it (one of the skills of resilience).


Class Participation (30% of grade): Think about, reflect on, and try to apply course material. Think critically about what you read and hear, both in the course and outside of it. And use the classroom to display and develop your ability to analyze, summarize, evaluate, and argue positions. Life is not a multiple choice test; it's all essay questions! For particulars, see handouts:

Class participants should help lead in areas related to their core interests.

Topic Development (30% of grade): 1st half of course: Choose a potential crisis and develop a course webpage about it (e.g.,Famine). 2nd half of course: develop a course webpage on a solution, i.e., a potential course of action to prevent or cope with a given type of crisis or some aspect of general resilience.

Your webpage could be something like a Wikipedia article, but you do not have their style or NPOV restrictions. In fact, you should have a point of view and make an implicit argument as to why your topic is or is not a potential crisis. SourceWatch is a better model. It's standard is "fair, accurate and fully sourced," which better lets the truth come through by making points while insisting that every piece of information have an external, verifiable source. [1]

Webpages should be short and to the point, but if you're inspired you can do a series (or web) of pages.

Content is the most important thing! But if your content is good, and you're up for it, graphics, pictures, videos, etc..., can make a page far more effective. The more creative and aesthetic the better. We want people to want to visit your page and the site.

Course Project (40% of grade) Consider why you have enrolled in the course and what you hope to get out of it. What would be the best possible outcome of having taken the course? Is there anything you really want to do or accomplish towards which this course may be helpful? Examples of course projects could include:

This could be a smaller stand alone project, a piece of a larger project or a team effort. Ideally course projects are identifiable as components in your overall educational program. Do something you WANT to do, it's not (just) a test or yet another burden. Consider me, your classmates and the OD program as means to pursue and accomplish something uniquely valuable.

By the end of the course, you must turn in a paper and/or give a presentation about your project. If you choose to write a paper, please read my >Guide to Developing and Writing a Research Paper. You may also want to attend my research writing workshops. If you choose to do a presentation, please review these Presentation Suggestions.



[1] Wikipedia has become one of the most-read websites on the planet, but it is vulnerable to manipulation though the use of anonymous edits and a need for a "neutral point of view," even when some points of view are disingenuous. SourceWatch is a preferable model. It makes points of view explicit, identifies authors, and allows them to separate wheat from chaff and sense from non-sense.

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Date Page Created: Apr 20, 2011 Last Page Update: Feb 1, 2011