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This issue, like so much of the media coverage of the last year, was conceived in the months following the September 11 terrorism attacks. “Readiness” was in the air, as it continues to be, as our nation—and all institutions—raise their preparedness to prevent or thwart other threats in the future. Building an organizational capability to respond seemed an appropriate theme for an issue, given not only the shadow of terrorism, but also the obvious link of readiness to learning and human capital management that stand at the heart of the LiNE Zine agenda.

Strangely enough, contemporary discussion about organizational readiness does not necessarily lead all people to questions of learning and human capital. About six weeks after the September 11 events, I attended a conference on “government excellence” which convened several senior Federal executives to talk about their accelerating efforts to prepare the U.S. government for the new cause against terrorism. At the conference, I listened to a distinguished panel of leaders from the U.S. Dept of State, Health and Human Services, U.S. Post Office and other agencies speak patriotically and fervently about what they were doing. At that point, not one of the speakers mentioned anything about increasing learning capability or building the skills and experience of the people in their organizations to face the new threats. Instead, the immediate rhetoric was about—you guessed it—technology: how woefully underinvested this or that agency was; how new tools were being rolled into position, but the challenges of implementation; about the promise of new smart weapons and communications systems that would eventually win the day.

We at LiNE Zine are not Luddites about technology and its progress, but I must say the remarkable lack of focus on people was more than a little distressing. The knee-jerk reaction, placing tools and systems first, is all too familiar in a world that has not yet fully realized that management of human capital is strategic for all organizations. All the tools and technologies in the world are not worth anything if not integrated with a flesh and blood organization that knows how, when, and why to use them, and continuously improves its effectiveness based on learning.

In recent weeks, the importance of organizational and people issues has risen in the public debate, though regrettably through the revelations of how many opportunities for “readiness” were missed since September 11,  due to in-fighting and lack of coordination among our so-called intelligence agencies. For all the criticisms of President Bush’s new restructuring plan for homeland security, at least it recognizes the importance of organizational readiness first. Bottom line, as a nation, we still have a lot of learning about learning to do.

At the same time, it’s important to understand that the need for organizational readiness was not suddenly invented on Sept. 11. As long as institutions, countries, companies, or organizations have had to prepare for and adapt to sudden and unexpected change, developing readiness has been an imperative. Which is to say—always has, always will. Today’s global economy promises only more shocks, surprises, and the need for adaptation.

We offer up this issue of LiNE Zine for its insights and perspectives on the state of the question. Please click through; we’re ready when you are.

Brook Manville, Publisher

June 11, 2002


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