Becoming a "Sense‑and‑Respond" Academic and Government Organisation


  • Elisabeth McDaniel
  • Mary McCully
  • Robert D. Childs


Agility, sense-and-respond, transformation, netcentricity


The Information Resources Management College is the largest of four colleges of National Defence University, the pre‑eminent U.S. graduate‑level institution responsible for educating military and civilian senior leaders across government for national security. The college, dedicated to developing information leaders who can leverage information and information technology for strategic advantage, is rapidly becoming an adaptive enterprise. The college is transforming into a "sense‑and‑respond" organisation (Haeckel, 1999), that is increasingly netcentric and agile, an essential quality for survival in a dynamic Information Age environment. By engaging more directly with stakeholders, the college is sensing the learning needs of government organisations. In response it is re‑designing current, and designing new, educational programs, re‑framing its courses into professional development seminars, and designing tailored educational services to meet the learning needs of government organisations. Via its large distributed learning program, the college reaches students around the world, and is expanding its current global reach by supporting communities of practice aligned with perceived stakeholder interests. It is also encouraging faculty participation with networks of government, academic, and private sector colleagues to enrich learning. Cross‑boundary communication, collaboration, and leadership are valued as essential to better government and the agility of the college, and are infused as curricular and organisational goals. As part of its transformation, college leaders streamlined the organisational design to create teams of faculty to develop and deliver programs. Replacing command‑and‑control systems, the leaders are adapting the organisational context by re‑framing the organisation's reason for being, governing principles, and high‑level business process design. While continuing to offer credit‑bearing courses and programs consistent with the academic traditions of a graduate school, the college is transforming from a "make‑and‑sell" organisation to a "sense‑and‑respond" organisation that models agility in today's information‑driven federal government environment.



1 May 2007