Unconventional Crisis


CATO Cover Spring 2014

This article is published in the current Spring 2014 CATO news, the official publication of the California Association of Tactical Officers. It was both an honor and privilege to have it published in this professional journal. Republished here with permission.

Crisis Meta-Leadership Lessons From the Boston Marathon Bombings Response: The Ingenuity of Swarm Intelligence

“Never tell your people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” ~ General George Patton

Adaptability is Key in Handling Crisis Situations…Be In Command and Out Of Control

“…the first thing I told our staff is that we would be in command and out of control,” Van Riper says echoing the words of management guru Kevin Kelly. “By that, I mean that the overall guidance and the intent were provided by me and the senior leadership, but the forces in the field wouldn’t depend on intricate orders coming from the top. They were to use their own initiative and be innovative as they went forward….” Paul Van Riper, US Marine commander.

Incident Command: the team cohesion aspect of the SitRep

Over the past few weeks, I have been re-engineering Police Incident Command according to The Illinois Model law enforcement operations system (LEOpSys). Most of the ideas aren't earth-shattering, but they suggest some small adjustments to the nationally-mandated program. The first several posts lay some foundation into our vision of what IC should be.

Tactical Supervision: Coaches and Chessplayers: Guest Post By Louis Hayes

Some more interesting thinking from Louis Hayes purveyor of The Illinois Model. Here he talks about the balance of linear thinking for the technical problems (Chess player) and nonlinear thinking (Coach)for the adaptive problems we in law enforcement face. As with most we do in law enforcement there is a balance to be struck if we are to be successful. Thanks to Louis for allowing us to post here!


To effectively function in the initial, chaotic stages of a crisis, develop adaptive leaders

“The learning organization overcomes the impediment of centralized responsibility by instilling within the organization’s members a thirst for creativity and hunger for a challenge.” ~Brig. Gen. David A. Fastabend and Robert Simpson, Adapt or Die

“The comprehensive overview of Boyd’s work shows that the OODA loop represents and means more...

...than a decision process, and the model contains more elements for victory than information superiority and speed. The OODA loop is much less a model of decision-making than a model of individual and organizational learning and adaptation in which the element of orientation-made up of genetics, experience, culture, plays the dominant role in the game of hypothesis and test, of analysis and synthesis, of destruction and creation.” ~Frans P.B. Osinga, Science Strategy and war: The strategic theory of John Boyd

The Missing Piece of NIMS: Teaching Incident Commanders How to Function in the Edge of Chaos by Police Chief, Cynthia Renaud

The Homeland Security Affairs article "The Missing Piece of NIMS: Teaching Incident Commanders How to Function in the Edge of Chaos" by Folsom California Police Chief, Cynthia Renaud is a must read article for law enforcement.

Leadership in Unconventional Crises

In the opening paragraph of the 2008 report “Unconventional Crises, Unconventional Responses: Reforming Leadership in the Age of Catastrophic Crises and “Hyper complexity” where Erwan Lagadec laid out the initial results of the Unconventional Crises project, a project that aimed to be as unconventional as the events it examined and offered numerous lessons learned that will be very beneficial to those of us who deal with crisis.

Unconventional Crises, Unconventional Responses: Reforming Leadership in the Age of Catastrophic Crises and “Hyper complexity”

“Most “tabletop” simulation exercises follow a common pattern. Organizers prepare a detailed scenario ahead of the event. After its premises are laid out and participants set to work, new information is released on a regular basis, indicating developments brought about in part by the participants’ decisions. In their response, participants are expected to conform to a set plan, which the simulation aims to test and rehearse.

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