Errors in crisis management operations can have deadly consequences. Some international organizations take steps to reform, whereas other organizations tend to repeat the same errors. As budget cuts have led to increased turnover in personnel, how is it that international organizations have maintained any knowledge about past errors?
This book introduces an argument for how and why international organizations develop institutional memory of strategic errors. As Heidi Hardt shows, formal learning processes - such as lessons learned offices and databases - can ironically deter elite officials from using the processes to share their relevant knowledge. Elites have few professional incentives to report observed strategic errors. As a result, most memory-building occurs behind the scenes via informal processes. These informal
processes include elites' use of transnational interpersonal networks, private documentation, and conversations during crisis management exercises. Such processes ensure that institutional memory develops, but they do so at a price: an organization's memory is vulnerable to knowledge loss if even one
critical elite chooses to retire.
Hardt tests her argument through extensive, original field research inside one of the world's largest crisis management organizations - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). She conducted interviews and a survey experiment with 120 NATO elites, including almost all NATO ambassadors and military representatives, all assistant secretary generals, and civilian and military leaders engaged in the decision-making and planning of operations. Her findings provide insights into NATO's
institutional memory concerning three cases of crisis management in Afghanistan, Libya, and Ukraine. Ultimately, this book argues that formal learning processes alone are insufficient for an organization to capture knowledge, learn and change.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 296
Weight: 461 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 18 mm
"How do international organizations develop institutional memory? Heidi Hardt argues that we look at both formal and informal processes within the organization - and particularly the way they shape reaction to strategic errors - to understand institutional memory formation. In making her argument she provides a wealth of evidence about the formal processes in NATO, why they are often skirted, and the informal mechanisms that allow the organization to work.
Reliance on informal mechanisms is critical to NATO's functioning but also makes it reliant on key personalities. Hardt expects that similar dynamics are common in other IOs. If you are interested in
institutional learning or NATO, you will want to read this book."
--Deborah Avant, Sie Cheou-Kang Chair and Director for International Security and Diplomacy, University of Denver
"Extremely well designed, this is an impressive and ambitious book, whose arguments are compelling. Hardt's interviews and surveys provide incredibly rich and unparalleled data. Anyone studying NATO needs to read this book, and it will be of great value to scholars and students studying other international organizations."
--James Goldgeier, author of Not Whether But When: The U.S. Decision to Enlarge NATO
"Can international organizations learn? The answer is more than just a simple no as Heidi Hardt finds that formal lessons learning processes are doomed to fail, but that informal learning can occur. Given how much has been asked of NATO and how much NATO has done the past twenty years, it is an important, fruitful, intriguing, and, due to Hardt's extensive interviews, fascinating case. This book is a must for students of International Organizations as Hardt
moves beyond the basic question of whether IOs matter or if they have agency to determine under what conditions will they improve. Hardt provides a compelling account for why NATO has not figured out
how to perform better as it has centres and institutions devoted to learning lessons."
--Stephen M. Saideman, Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Carleton University