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Strategic Decision-Making: A Roadmap for Germany to Transition from Crisis Response to Foresight

Veröffentlicht am
Joel Christoph

Dieser Essay ist der Gewinner des Call for Essays – Wege aus dem Krisenmodus.


As Germany grapples with cascading crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russian-Ukraine war, reactive policymaking has become the norm. While crisis response is crucial, this perpetual firefighting approach is unsustainable and fails to address systemic risks proactively. Germany now faces a pivotal juncture – continue recessive decision-making focused on damage control or undertake reforms to enable strategic, anticipatory governance.

This essay argues for the latter path, proposing targeted changes to Germany’s institutional design and decision-making ecosystem to foster strategic foresight and proactive risk management. A resilient future for Germany necessitates this fundamental shift from reactionary crisis management to proactive planning and mitigation.

The Problem

The landscape of German politics has been dominated by a continuous crisis mode, with decision-makers grappling to address the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the complexities of the climate crisis, and the geopolitical upheaval caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This reactive approach to governance has not only stretched the country’s resources thin but has also hindered the formulation of long-term, strategic plans necessary for Germany’s progression.


The immediacy of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, for instance, has demanded swift action and resource allocation, potentially at the expense of addressing other pressing issues like the climate crisis. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fragility of global systems and the need for robust domestic policies to shield the population and economy from such external shocks. The intersection of these crises has created a volatile political environment, with decision-makers caught in a constant loop of firefighting. This essay delves deep into these challenges, dissecting the impacts of each crisis on the political landscape and evaluating the need for a fundamental shift in Germany’s political decision-making process.


A Question of Institutional Design

Germany’s federalist system, while adept at ensuring regional representation, often results in a fragmented approach to crisis management. This decentralization of power between the federal government and the sixteen federal states can lead to inconsistencies and delays in response, particularly evident during crises that necessitate unified action.

The COVID-19 pandemic starkly illuminated the weaknesses inherent in our federalist system. The varied and sometimes contradictory measures implemented by individual federal states not only caused confusion but also hindered the creation of a cohesive national strategy. In comparison, countries like Singapore and South Korea have demonstrated the advantages of a centralized approach. Their prompt and coordinated responses, facilitated by strong central governments, proved critical in effectively managing the pandemic.

Drawing lessons from these international examples, Germany should reconsider its institutional framework to better prepare for and manage crises. The need for a unified approach is paramount, requiring the establishment of clear lines of authority and responsibility that supersede regional boundaries. This could involve the creation of a central crisis management team, inclusive of representatives from both federal and state governments, ensuring uniform decision-making and implementation across all regions.

Moreover, the current distribution of power among various executive bodies should be reevaluated to delineate clear roles and responsibilities during crises. This could potentially include designating a lead executive body for each type of crisis, tasked with coordinating response efforts across all government levels, thereby optimizing resource allocation and policy implementation.

By taking these crucial steps towards a more integrated and coherent approach to crisis management, Germany can transition from its current reactive state to a proactive and strategic stance. Such an evolution is essential not only for addressing the challenges posed by the contemporary global landscape but also for safeguarding the nation’s future prosperity and stability.

Institutional Changes

To cultivate strategic decision-making in Germany, the institutional design and distribution of executive power warrant careful re-examination. Three key areas of reform can catalyze this evolution.

Firstly, crisis coordination between the federal and state governments needs consolidation. As the pandemic demonstrated, Germany’s decentralized federalist structure enabled contradictory regional responses, obstructing a unified national strategy. To align crisis management, a dedicated Federal Crisis Management Agency could be established, including state representatives. This centralized team would coordinate cross-jurisdictional responses, ensuring coherent implementation nationwide, as modelled by Denmark’s effective climate policy coordination across central and local governments.

Secondly, delegating each crisis type to a lead federal ministry can streamline responses through specialized knowledge and resources. For example, the Health Ministry could spearhead pandemic management, liaising with healthcare experts to devise national containment plans. Alternatively, the Environment Ministry could coordinate climate crisis mitigation, allocating funding towards targeted decarbonization initiatives nationwide. Such delegation provides operational focus to ministries while retaining cooperative crisis governance.

Finally, investing in future strategy capabilities can cultivate proactive foresight. Techniques like scenario planning, modeling, and technology forecasting, proven to enhance preparedness, should be institutionalized across ministries. Companies like Shell and the RAND Corporation demonstrate the efficacy of future strategies in identifying emerging risks and opportunities. By integrating such capabilities, the government can foresee crises earlier and formulate agile, preventative responses.

With these reforms – consolidated crisis coordination, delegation of responsibilities, and futures strategy investment – Germany can transition towards resilient, strategic governance prepared for the challenges ahead.

Capabilities and Incentives

The capabilities and incentives of actors involved in decision-making play a pivotal role in determining the effectiveness of crisis management strategies. In order to shift from a reactive to a proactive approach, there needs to be a significant investment in improving the skills and resources available to these actors.

Firstly, the capabilities of actors can be enhanced through rigorous training programs focused on crisis anticipation, mitigation, and management. For instance, simulation exercises that mimic potential crisis scenarios have proven effective in honing crisis management skills, as evidenced by their wide adoption by government agencies and private companies globally. Moreover, continuous learning through short courses, seminars, and mentorship opportunities can equip actors with cutting-edge knowledge of crisis management tools and best practices. Access to reliable real-time data and actionable intelligence is equally crucial for enabling evidence-based decision-making. The German government could collaborate with research institutions and the private sector to establish an integrated crisis management data analytics and forecasting system.

Secondly, cultivating motivation requires strong leadership that can rally actors around a compelling vision and mission focused on proactive crisis management. As demonstrated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s highly effective crisis leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, clear communication, empathy, and decisive action are vital to fostering collective motivation. Furthermore, an agile organizational culture characterized by psychological safety, team collaboration, and constructive feedback promotes motivation by making actors feel valued and empowered.

By making such investments in the crisis management capabilities and motivation of all actors, Germany can enable the fundamental shift towards strategic foresight and proactive decision-making essential for effectively navigating crises.


In conclusion, this essay proposes reforms to enable strategic decision-making in Germany, providing a roadmap to transition from crisis response to proactive foresight. Consolidating crisis coordination, delegating sectoral expertise, and adopting future strategy methodologies can transform Germany’s institutional framework to manage risks preemptively. Furthermore, investments in capabilities and motivation are imperative to empower actors systemwide for this shift. With effective leadership and sustained commitment, Germany can break out of the perpetual crisis cycle to forge an adaptive and resilient governance system prepared for dynamic futures. The time for fundamental change is now if Germany aims to navigate crises effectively and maintain its leadership and prosperity globally.



Dieser Essay ist der Gewinner des Call for Essays – Wege aus dem Krisenmodus.


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