Decision making in the face of adversity is an important component of any operational resilience programme. Decisions made during all phases of an incident life cycle have the potential to significantly influence the outcome (both positive and negative) experienced by an organisation exposed to an unfolding disruption scenario. For decision making to be most effective, it needs to be objective, unbiased and executed by people carrying authoritative responsibility and/or accountability for functions or process at all levels of the organisation.
The most effective senior leaders recognise that decision making is affected by factors such as culture, perception and personal or group circumstances. For example, decision makers who may be either unrehearsed or poorly practised in executing their responsibilities during an emergency or crisis event may be affected by conditions known as ‘group think’ or ‘group polarisation’ in an effort to avoid conflict, disagreement and/or mask potential incompetence. The net effect of this scenario is potentially flawed or one dimensional decision making through persuasion, departure from strategy, policy and procedure and/or dilution of personal responsibility, resulting in either further loss of time, greater impact or missed opportunity.
In reality, during a crisis or emergency event senior leaders will be required to analyse a considerable amount of information or data, under pressure, in a very short amount of time prior to making a decision. This has been referred to by scholars as naturalistic decision making, which is in fact an essential quality of an effective business resilience champion or senior business leader. By recognising and understanding the limitations associated with group decision making, senior leadership can configure resources and personnel to facilitate optimised information flow to determine the success or failure of dynamic response efforts, as they unfold.
At the end of the day, the success or failure of an organisations response to major disruption event will be attributed to decisions made by its management. Therefore, management must ensure they maintain “360 degree vision” of all aspects of the response, and be adequately prepared to deploy skilled and experienced resources, allowing management to momentarily step away from the noise to assess the broader aspects of consequence and business opportunity – and make the most effective decisions possible.
When was the last time you stress tested your organisations response to a major security or disruption event?