Friday, February 24, 2006

Monday Notes in Action

While conducting research for my organizational imperatives position essay, I encountered an article that mentions Monday Notes in a different setting. I thought you guys might find this interesting.

In the American Communication Journal’s Winter, 2003 issue, there was an article titled “A "Worldview" of Disaster: Organizational Sensemaking in a Wildland Firefighting Tragedy” by Gregory S. Larson. It mentions that the Monday Notes could be implemented to better deal with crisis situations.

The article addresses crisis situations, such as firefighting disasters. It suggests that crisis situations provide opportunities to study organizational decision making and provide lessons for organizational theory and practice. It focused mainly on accounts of a Colorado fire in 1994. One of the main points it talks about is that employees and managers need regular communication relationships with those people they might need to depend on in a crisis. For instance, the firefighter digging a fireline on a mountain in Colorado depends on the scientist studying the burning patterns of fuels in Montana or the weather forecaster predicting a cold front moving through California.

They also discuss that the discipline of regular communication forces individuals to consider other perspectives. They address the idea of when employees communicate only with people in their specialties, the odds of seeing the world only in terms of that specialized activity increase. It’s not practical for every wildland firefighter to have a daily conversation with the weather forecaster. But, something can be done to help both realize their interconnectedness in the process of fighting a fire.

They found that the routine of "Monday Notes" at NASA established a system of organizational communication. They realized that the notes focused on the status of various jobs throughout the organization. The notes were then reproduced and distributed to all. As a result, managers throughout the organization were better prepared to anticipate difficulties.

The article implies that employees would need to change who they communicate with in order for a system like Monday Notes to be implemented successfully. The firefighters would then feel comfortable, confident and supported in contacting the scientist he is depending on. If that sort of a supportive climate is not in place though, using a system like Monday Notes could ultimately be counterproductive because the information in the notes could be rendered useless if there is no trust between the two communicating. The firefighter and scientist would need to have a healthy climate where they have the same goals in mind, have support from their managers and give each other the credibility needed to trust the information being relayed. Then the Monday Notes can become a trustworthy communication system, as it once was at NASA.