Published works

Published works

Decision making, team monitoring and organisational learning in emergency management: Annual project report 2015-2016

TitleDecision making, team monitoring and organisational learning in emergency management: Annual project report 2015-2016
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBearman, C, Brooks, B, Owen, C, Curnin, S, Rainbird, S, Matthews, S
Document Number222
Date Published09/2016
InstitutionBushfire and Natural Hazards CRC
Report Number222

There is evidence that incidents associated with natural hazards are becoming more complex and that strategic level emergency management is becoming an ever more sophisticated workplace environment. If we are going to expect people to operate in this environment we need to ensure that their skills and tools effectively support them. We need to develop the capability of our people to function in these increasingly complex environments now and into the future.

This project seeks to develop practical decision tools that can help people to function more effectively in complex emergency management environments. Towards this aim the project has three main research streams that seek to: provide enhanced methods of making decisions; develop methods to better monitor and modify the behavior of teams; and to identify the enablers and barriers to organisational learning so that the capabilities needed can continue to adapt and change.

In the team monitoring stream, a comprehensive literature review of methods to monitor teams from the position of operational oversight has been conducted. Based on this literature review and discussions with end users two methods (EMBAM & TBM) have been selected and have received preliminary evaluation. This preliminary evaluation has proved to be encouraging and has led to both NSW SES and CFS proposing to use the tools operationally during the 2016-17 storm and fire seasons. This will provide further opportunities for evaluation and development.

In the decision making stream, research has identified both the context in which decisions are made (e.g. the policies & procedures) and the informal strategies that people use to function within dynamic, pressured work environments. This work has identified opportunities for improvement and ways to bring the formal and informal elements of decision-making closer together. Decision making has also been explored in the context of organisational resilience and the REAG Resilience Health Check Tool. Based on these activities strategies and approaches to enhance decision making have been identified and will be evaluated with end-users through 2016-17.

In the organisational learning stream, interviews have revealed that strategic-level emergency managers need to assess learning through trade-offs where agency values and the complexities involved in managing incidents interact. The findings also suggest that there are sometimes complementary but often conflicting standards against which crisis management may be judged. Finally there is often a difference between assumptions about how emergencies “ought” to be managed (espoused theories) and how they in fact are managed. The research in this stream is now focused in working closely with end users to unpack these tensions and contradictions.

Through these three streams of activity then the project is developing a range of practical tools and strategies that have the potential to enhance decision making, team monitoring and organisational learning. It seems likely that strategic emergency management will be becoming increasingly complex in the near future. The research presented here contributes to developing the capability

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