Hastily Formed Networks

Naval Postgraduate School

Monterey, California USA

As network science, social networks and network analysis expand rapidly and become the lingua franca of business, economics and society, novel and important network patterns continuously reveal themselves. They deserve attention, thinking, visualization and analysis. Some are new and others are continuously evolving. They are central to knowledge, productivity, resilient ecosystems, customer delight, and overall business excellence.

One interesting network pattern is referred to as Hastily Formed Networks (HFN). Hastily Formed Networks arise, emerge in situations with the following properties (from the Naval Postgraduate School) –

  • Total absence of infrastructure
  • No command-and-control structure
  • No planning, training, or positioning
  • Groups with no prior reason to collaborate
  • Distributed, multi-agency response required
  • Makeshift infrastructures need to be deployed quickly
  • Totally insufficient resources. Available resources overwhelmed
  • Moving from a state of “coexistence” to a state of “collaboration” 
  • Chaos. Everyone is overwhelmed. People are frantic and panicky
  • Genuine surprise. The precipitating event is in no known category

Most of the attention and network research for HFNs has concerned terror attacks and natural disasters. However, we have all been faced with these specific properties in business at one time or another. You may expect these business conditions in the future with 100% certainty. 

Interestingly, and unfortunately, when faced with these properties, training, know how, and expertise quickly reverts to conditioned behaviors. This was tragically manifest in 9-11 with the utter collapse of interagency communications. Katrina had the identical failures and added problems with institutional, governmental and infrastructural intransigence of the Governor, Mayor, FEMA, etc.

Predictably, many specific decisions in 9-11, Katrina and other events are made that actually impeded the formation of hastily formed networks. A comprehensive network diagnostic and analysis would have illuminated HFNs opportunities. This allows comprehensive response at the all levels.

Too often, agency network patterns and configurations pursue ‘unified’ architectures and deployments. This is a deadly mistake. The more these legacy-style architectural practices are institutionalized, the more rigid they become. In turn, the more they are taken for granted, the more resources are required to managing them! It is a vicious cycle and deadly embrace.

Rather, inter-agency collaborations in the face of the properties above are best supported as complex adaptive systems. They cannot be managed, only served. A basic network diagnosis and analysis would quickly illustrate this canon of complexity. To create a resilient, sustainable and thriving inter-agency ecosystem that consistently meets and far exceeds the demands of unknown circumstances, network diagnosis and analysis is an essential tool.

An interagency network analysis illustrates profound interdependence. It can ameliorate internecine communication faults, political intransigence and network defects.

An inter-network organizational mindset, visualization and analysis helps achieve mastery of valence, complexity, network plasticity, resilience, robust ecologies and continuous interdependence. In short, comprehensive and continuous network diagnosis allows organizations to, ‘hope for the best and plan for the worst.


Colabria Hastily Formed Networks

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