Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some Thoughts on Sense/React

In a comment to my post on "Crisis Management and Resilience" Ken Simpson introduced the concept of situational awareness and Sense/React. I want to provide a few thoughts on this along with a more expanded look at React.

Firstly I want to state that in my view sense/react is an oversimplification. It misses the key steps of taking what your sensors identify and turning it into usable information which informs the react function.

Looking at this in reverse order I will briefly discuss react. I don't like that term as it implies that the situation is the master and the organization is purely reacting to situation. In principle I belief this surrendering of the initiative can lead to complacency and resignation.

When looking at the sense function, we can see how this might challenge an organization during a crisis. It is the sense function that provides the raw data that makes up an organization's situational awareness. In normal times, we have research departments, corporate relationships and other sensors that provide input to situational awareness and help the decision-maker "react". When a crisis occurs many of our normal channels of situational awareness are non-effective or operate at reduced effectiveness and here is where I believe most organizations are vulnerable.

As I mentioned earlier, the concept of sense and react is a simplification of the process of decision making in a crisis. I would like to expand that to Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. This theory know widely as the OODA Loop was originally penned Colonel John Boyd (1927-1997) for air to air combat and has become one of the seminal concepts of decision making theory.

Introduction to the OODA Loop

I will provide a further blog on how the OODA Loop can take a crisis management program from normal to extraordinary.

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