UNIT 10 Adaptive management

The unit discussed the issue of adaptive management. Interestingly, one of the slides talked about research indicating less than 20 per cent of a sample of academic papers on natural resource management referred to the use of adaptive management for a project. The lecturer then detailed barriers to adaptive management as a discussion point in response to the findings.

I am not surprised that adaptive management is not mentioned in name in many papers. Is it not the way things are done these days. It is now the rule rather than the exception. With risk management practises, public scrutiny and requirements on stock market listed entities in terms of disclosure, ‘hedging bets’ and adapting to unknowns, policy changes or previous mistakes is the norm.

At the same time, I wonder if adaptive management is an acceptable form of management in today’s highly scrutinised and partisan political environment. The basis of adaptive management is trial and error but that is not acceptable for the high profile issues that confront business and government.

As an example, the current NSW Government has had to deal with the fall-out from an every increasing number of shark attacks on swimmers around Ballina in the north of the state. The simple answer is to say ban swimming in the area. However, this is unacceptable to the tourism industry in the area. Responsible government agencies have tried various techniques to limit or stop attacks attacks without success. This is adaptive management. However, the political agenda dictates that a quick fix is needed so that the government is being seen to be doing something.

As recent as this week, the government caved into pressure to announce that it would install meeting to pacify local concerns, even through the nets have significant negative consequences for local wildlife.


The north coast shark issue is one where reality and understanding nature is not politically acceptable.

I would further add that ‘adaptive management’ is the new norm across business. In my professional, marketing and communication, we have all had to engage in adaptive management over the last ten years with the introduction of social media and things like facebook and twitter. Social media has brought a whole new element of uncertainty to marketing and communication.

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