How the FBI reinvented itself after 9/11?

An interesting case study by HBS Professors.

It is hard to imagine a more difficult and tragic trial by fire for a new leader. On September 4, 2001, Robert Mueller started his new job as the sixth director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A mere week later, on September 11, al-Qaeda terrorists carried out a massive coordinated attack on the United States, killing nearly 3,000 people with four hijacked airliners—and throwing the FBI’s structure and identity into question.

Since its founding in 1908, the organization had focused primarily on solving domestic crimes and bringing criminals to justice. But in the wake of 9/11, President George W. Bush expanded the FBI’s mission with a single question for Mueller: What was the FBI doing to prevent the next terrorist attack? And just like that, the brand-new director of the FBI had to figure out how to transform the organization from a law enforcement agency to a national security organization that not only solved crimes but also prevented attacks.

Harvard Business School Professor Jan W. Rivkin’s summation of Mueller’s situation reads like a tagline for a dramatic feature film. “He thought he was signing up to run a law enforcement agency,” Rivkin says. “He ended up with a job he didn’t sign up for. And God bless him, he pulled it off.”

Mueller’s major challenge was also a major learning opportunity for a group of scholars, including Rivkin, who had spent their academic careers studying organizational design and organizational identity.

A comprehensive study of the FBI’s transformation resulted in the paper Does “What We Do”Make Us “Who We Are”? Organizational Design and Identity Change at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, co-written by HBS colleagues Ranjay Gulati, the Jaime and Josefina Chua Tiampo Professor of Business Administration and head of the Organizational Behavior unit; Ryan L. Raffaelli, an assistant professor in the Organizational Behavior unit; and Rivkin, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration in the Strategy unit and Senior Associate Dean for Research.

Much of innovations on organisation designs have actually come from such places related to military/espionage etc. It is a bit of a role reversal this time..

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