Systems theory predominantly refers to the interdisciplinary field of studying the interconnection of complex systems and their interdependent parts. Theorists and practitioners alike analyze the principles common to all complex systems, such as physiology and biology, and the models which can be used to describe them. This theoretical framework has been applied successfully to develop precision technology through the study of bio-mechanics or bio-mimicry. As a result, doctors have provided patients with new muscle tissue to combat decay or an incurable disease. Similarly, by incorporating lessons learned from the process of photosynthesis, the military has bio-engineered a protein-based photo-voltaic coating to equip combat headgear and provide electrical power for extended missions.
Systems theory holds that ecosystems are in themselves self-adjusting; meaning that they are naturally agile in order to sustain themselves. Scientists explain this activity as a kind of “self-talking” or the ability of an ecosystem to control itself by communicating across the network. Applying this perspective to business management, organizational behavior specialists contend that organizations are better able to establish “field decisions” and executive “field objectives” when they effectively talk to themselves; for example, personnel achieve tasks more effectively when they correspond and collaborate at high rates and frequencies. Such internally-focused activity promotes organizational agility and sustenance of the organization’s mission, vision, and culture.
As explained by Dr. Robert Denhardt, author of Managing Human Behavior in Public and Nonprofit Organizations and expert on public administration, “Traditional hierarchical government is giving way to growing decentralization [and] flatter organizations. Control is giving way to interaction and involvement.” The Intelligence Community (IC) faces the challenge of sharing information effectively in order to maintain efficiency throughout the enterprise; however, such organizations are structured according to processes and procedures required of establishing decisions and meeting objectives. In this sense, the weight of decision-making and/or ability to communicate within the network, is more concentrated throughout the enterprise – and rightfully so.
Although the Law Enforcement Community is structured similarly to the IC, there exists more opportunities to collaborate with community stakeholders who are essential to the enforcement lifecycle. Dr. Jerry Ratcliffe, a formative expert on police intelligence management, articulated in his most recent book, Intelligence-led Policing, “Intelligence-led policing has a holistic view of the criminal environment, in that it aims to include information from a wider and richer range of sources in order to better understand the context of crime patterns. Intelligence-led policing attempts to be future oriented and strategically focused.” Considering Ratcliffe’s argument, Denhardt’s perspective makes more sense to the extent that when efforts are undertaken by stakeholders “to improve the capabilities of a single organization” then those efforts also “focus on the overall ability of the [larger] network to provide results in a coordinated way.” In this way, the weight of decision-making and/or ability to communicate within the network, is less concentrated throughout the enterprise.
The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) CompStat program is a successful model for implementing systematic information sharing; however, this management philosophy and structure is not entirely applicable to other intelligence-driven enterprises. Overall, several questions arise when integrating a multilayered, dynamic information sharing model, such as;
- (i) Who will establish and hold responsibility, and to what degree?
- (ii) Who will delegate responsibility and oversee production?
- (iii) Who will set the agenda and monitor objectives?
- (iv) Who will control the flow of information, or how will participants be incentivized to create the flow of information consistently?
Establishing “common goals [is] the priority for the [network],” identifying the “multiplicity of ties within the network,” and “collectively applying resources to problems that lack clear ownership” are equally important. In effect, the weight of decision-making and/or ability to communicate within the network will not be applied with varying degrees of concentration in the IC and law enforcement systems, but be systematically balanced in order to establish network resiliency and dependability and make both communities more agile.