2004/08/09

Stovepiping: The failure of bureaucratic responses to public threats


The term "stovepiping" is used to refer to the way that information from the lower levels of an organization is filtered, distorted, and compressed beyond usefulness for decisionmaking, in passing up the chain of command. the term has been coming into prominence since the public exposure of the way intelligence is reduced to about a two-page report for the president, the PDB, or "President's Daily Briefing" report. People have asked how all the
actionable intelligence gathered could enable the president to make informed decisions when it is thus filtered and compressed. The simple answer is, it can't.

However, the problem is not confined to the U.S. government. It is pervasive in all large hierarchical organizations, leading to calls to break them up and have the components proceed as a cooperating network, similar to the operation of small business entities in a healthy, competitive marketplace.

Some large organizations make periodic attempts to overcome this stovepiping effect by resorting to such devices as setting up "red teams", tasked to take contrarian positions in internal debates, much the way the judicial system conducts trials with an adversary system of opposing litigants and their counsels. Red teams are intended to dispel "groupthink", or the tendency to prematurely adopt a consensus position on some question and discourage dissent from it. The classic example of groupthink in action was the Bay of Pigs invasion, the result of no one challenging the plans as they were made. Others argue that the Vietnam war was another classic example of groupthink, even though there was dissent, especially among the public, the organizations making the decisions effectively excluded and ignored the dissent and failed to consider the sound arguments for it. (See "competitive diffusion processes" and why nationalism has a higher coefficient of diffusion than Jeffersonian republicanism and constitutionalism.)

Following are some links to further discussion of this topic:

Stovepiping:
http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?031027fa_fact
http://www.dodccrp.org/events/2004/CCRTS_San_Diego/CD/papers/171.pdf
http://www.thepoorman.net/archives/002133.html
http://www.leavenworth.army.mil/milrev/download/English/JulAug04/grau.pdf
http://www.narsil.org/politics/stovepipe1.html
http://www.hpti.com/objects/homeland.pdf
http://www.afsa.org/fsj/mar04/thielmann.pdf
http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2004_cr/harman040104.html
http://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/vol47no1/article03.html
http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/EM828.cfm
http://reviews.infoworld.com/article/04/04/23/17OPcurve_1.html
http://www.usamnesia.com/2004/02/do-you-all-know-sy-hersh-americas-most.html
http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/coia.htm

Red teaming:
http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/dsb/redteam.pdf
http://www.hicksandassociates.com/whatwedo/red-teaming.html
http://www.sandia.gov/programs/homeland-security/red_teaming/redteam.html
http://www.janes.com/company/consultancy/red_team.shtml
http://www.cs.nmt.edu/~cs491_02/RedTeaming-4hr.pdf
http://www.ieaust.org.au/SafeAustralia/Presentations/Roberts/Redteaming1.ppt
http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-sims.htm
http://www.redteamjournal.com/

Groupthink:
http://www.abacon.com/commstudies/groups/groupthink.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink
http://www.afirstlook.com/archive/groupthink.cfm?source=archther
http://choo.fis.utoronto.ca/FIS/Courses/LIS2149/Groupthink.html
http://www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=Groupthink
http://www.groupthink.ca/

Innovation Diffusion Processes:
http://www.constitution.org/col/03317_diffusion.htm
http://www.ciadvertising.org/studies/student/98_fall/theory/hornor/paper1.html
http://mstm.gmu.edu/mstm720/Articles/DifussionOfInnovationsGlossary.html
http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC28/AtKisson.htm
http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/hqlibrary/ppm/ppm39.htm
http://www.convenor.com/madison/diffus.htm
http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/s/j/sjm256/portfolio/kbase/Systems&Change/ChangeProcess.html
http://outreach.missouri.edu/swregion/news/Publications/Diffusion%20theory.pdf
http://www.ou.edu/deptcomm/dodjcc/groups/99A2/theories.htm
http://web.cbs.dk/staff/damsgaard/abstract/doitheory.html

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