From Adaptive Cycle
Author: Catherine Allan
Title: Adaptive management of natural resources.
Year of publication: 2007
Keywords: adaptive management, natural resource management, environmental management,
The concept of adaptive management has been embraced by natural resource managers worldwide, and in Australia the promise to manage adaptively underpins most government water related programs and projects. Adaptive management is learning from doing; learning comes through the implementation of policies and strategies, so adaptive management complements research-based learning. Passive adaptive management learns from the implementation of an historically informed ‘best’ practice, followed by review of that implementation. Active adaptive management involves a range of practices designed to achieve strategic goals (treatments) to test the hypothesis that ‘best’ practice is just that. Adaptive Management is not sycophantic flexibility, nor is it simply muddling through. In particular, adaptive management is not business as usual. For adaptive management to achieve its promise it must be recognised as a radical departure from established ways of managing natural resources; it requires new ways of thinking about management, new organizational structures and new implementation processes and tools. Planners and managers require educational, administrative, and political support as they seek to understand and implement adaptive management
Most of the times, when using the term of adaptive management, the referential material comes from corporate background, whether it be of social, cultural, strategic or technological nature. Nonetheless, it comes without saying that this term originated from Holling’s technical-ecological model. ” <ref name="Holling"> Holling, C. S, Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems. Ecosystems, 2001, Vol.4, pp.390-405. </ref> It’s fascinating to see that the same rules that apply to organisations, are simply derived from natural environment, which has become object of increasing concern and focus in the last few decades. In her argumentation, Allan argues that adaptive management can only occur through learning in the implementation process. Moreover, she posits this management dimension does not act as a superior substitute for other forms of organisational education progression. Instead, it is considered to be a complementary development aiding the involved stakeholders to acquire a much broader spectrum of comprehension.
As the project or organisation dimensions / entanglement amplify, so does the complexity level of adaptive management, with increasing number of employees being engaged in the procedure. However, an initial differentiation can be established between adaptive experiment and adaptive governance. The former pertains to implementing and monitoring of plans and policies, whereas the latter, being an emerging field, is more focused on novel knowledge utilization in the learning and planning phase.
Allan also discussed three distinct forms of knowledge, derived from implementation. These are namely:
*Evolutionary adaptive management (education from arbitrary events in an without clear-cut guidelines)
*Passive adaptive management (learning process focused on best-practices and models, as already implemented in the industry)
*Active adaptive management (knowledge acquisition through implementation with focus on thorough condition examination)
When implementing adaptive management practices, regardless of the resource origin (natural / human / capital), Allan suggests, three significant issues need to be considered. First of all appropriate and systematicevaluation must take place. Not only financial or time resources need to be considered but also the initial drivers as well as implementation repercussions ought to be taken into account. The second variable is thediversity of participants that should be assured. Homogeneity of backgrounds or opinions is not advisable as it does not challenge the already in place stagnant strategies. Last, but not least,adequate leadership figure is indispensible to secure all the participants’ commitment as well as influential power to shape the organizational policy and implementation scheme.
Another matter which I found interesting is the fact that Allan advocates the fact that organizational pool of knowledge is not already derived from the past experiences. This sounded slightly paradoxical to me, as I would expect that along with heavy spending on the resources engaged in various projects, this would come as a subsequent step. However, it seems that feedback and monitoring do not really play that important role in the post-implementation phases. The constraints to that are, for example, overly emphasis on budgetary target achievement, restricted timeframes and complex human resource dimension, which leave rather limited room for maneuver or adaptive learning from implementation. Needless to mention lack of opportunity to experiment and prepare for potential unexpected event which are eventually bound to occur and most likely to catch such exclusively result-driven organisations completely off-guard.