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Decision making for business incident management systems

Following his recent article regarding the METHANE acronym and the UK JESIP model, Paul Kudray looks at whether another of the key JESIP tools, the Joint Decision Model, could also be useful for business resilience.

I wrote recently about the ‘METHANE’ acronym, which was adopted by the UK emergency services (under the joint emergency services interoperability principles – JESIP), as one of the improvement steps in emergency management; in particular, for shared situational awareness.

I asked the question: ‘Could ‘METHANE’ work for business resilience and respective incident management systems?’

Feedback from the article was extremely encouraging - and it raised several additional suggestions about decision making across the business sector, again in the context of incident management. A number of learned colleagues asked how the Joint Decision Model (JDM), adopted by JESIP, could be equally applied to business resilience. This article will explore this question.

Information overload

The initial phases of all incidents, crises, emergencies, and disasters undoubtedly involve a magnitude of information; either offered or required. Things can appear chaotic while incident management teams and leaders try to get the best sources of ‘credible’ information and intelligence available, to enable informed decisions and actions to be taken.

Having experienced a large number of major incidents and events during my time in the emergency services - in addition to studying cases, reports and teaching incident commanders - I have a deep understanding of how individuals react in difficult, challenging times. Outside ‘business as usual’, incident leaders don’t have the luxury of time or range of sources, to gain the right volume and quality of information they would like, before they have to make a ‘tough call’. ‘Interference’ and ‘noise’ are words often heard when it comes to the aftermath, when people are trying to determine what was going on around the incident’s information gathering stages. Only great and exceptional leaders are able to clearly determine what is noise and what is critical in the early stages.

The model

Every organization is entitled to use its own models for decision making; but whichever is chosen, it’s important to make sure that decisions are not ‘off the cuff’ or ‘seat of the pants’. Decision making principles have been studied academically and scientifically for many years and put into practice in both simulation and ‘live’ incidents. The best processes will not only be well developed, they dovetail into the organizational culture for day to day decision making; not just for periods of crisis management.

During the development stages of JESIP in the UK, a number of decision models existed within the Police and the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS); and, at the time, the National Health Service (NHS) and the Ambulance Service did not have a formally recognised decision model in place. Decision making there was left to individuals - although it should be noted that the Ambulance Service did take on board the ‘blue light’ models and adapted a version similar to that used by the Police a couple of years before JESIP formally took off.

So what does the JESIP Joint Decision Model (JDM) look like?

Source: www.jesip.org.uk

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the JDM has its main aim and objective at the core. This remains the common value at the centre of any decision or stage of the cycle.

The rest of the process enables a common sense approach to making informed decisions, based on what is known at that particular time and is designed to ensure it’s always reviewed once something has happened or changed. In principle, the JDM has been a considerable success in providing a common tool and methodology for emergency management incident commanders to operate to. It has provided a significant improvement to what was in place pre-JESIP and clearly enhanced both the capabilities of the decision makers and shared situational awareness. Therefore, it ultimately should benefit the public as an end outcome.

JDM in a business resilience context?

The JDM works exceptionally well and is the standard methodology used within the UK emergency services (as well as now having been widely adopted by multi-agency partners) in particular for emergency management and civil protection. But the question remains as to the JDM’s capability to be effective in business continuity management.

You might say something exists already. Or you may argue that no one standard is widely accepted as the guideline or benchmark. One thing is clear: whichever decision making model is used by businesses, it must be a familiar one for the incident managers within that organization.

Current good practice and standards given by industry bodies don’t go as far as (or far enough!) to suggest utilising common learning from business continuity’s emergency management sister and adopting and implementing enhancements and tools around how continuity incidents can be managed; using a solid model such as the JDM. Currently, the business continuity approach is to leave the IMS model to the discretion of the organization as part of their responsibilities. Tools and methodology such as the JDM (or similar) don’t form part of a standardised or recommended model to assist businesses to make difficult decisions in extraordinary circumstances.

We should not forget that a large number of businesses are yet to have (or even desire) a business continuity management capability. Nonetheless, somewhere along the way, they will still have to make difficult decisions in time precious situations. As a bare minimum, they could be helped by adopting a simple model to assist them in making ‘informed choices’. A simple adaptation of the JDM could achieve that:

Appetite for enhancement? How and who?

One of the comments I received following the METHANE article, asked how I would see it being taken forward in the continuity world.

The JESIP movement had ministerial backing and direction to ‘make it happen’; which in due course, enabled the 105 CEOs from different services to sign up to one model. This helped without question.

In the business world – which is far more diverse and complex than the government based, public sector - it would be more difficult to negotiate and influence working towards a ‘METHANE’ and a decision model.

However, surely the benefits are there to be seen?

Land of the giants

What it would need as a starting point is for the resilience ‘giants’ and institutes to consider just how much development and progress has been achieved through the old fashioned ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ approach. That consideration and the isomorphic learning from its emergency management sister, could - and should - encourage adoption of the next steps, which are to lead the incident management processes more clearly than currently happens.

Providing a more common approach would enhance the excellent work around providing common standards and good practice, by making a complete capability.

To achieve this, such an initiative will need to be led, supported and - knowing the complexities and sensitivities involved - given some degree of personality to ‘make it happen’.

The question is therefore not could the JDM work within the business world, but does the will exist, amongst the land of resilience giants and institutes to make it happen?

The author

Paul KudrayAn international leader in business resilience consultancy, training and coaching; Paul Kudray, MSc FICPEM CBCI AMBCI Fellow of the EPC, is an ex-emergency services commander who finished an exemplary 32 year career in the UK healthcare sector, working for the NHS - culminating in 7½ years as the Director of Resilience for one of the world’s largest ambulance services, NWAS NHS Trust. He now works with private and public sector clients around the world, training, advising, coaching and mentoring them at the highest levels about emergency and business continuity management. Paul's company is KCLContact Paul at paul@kudrayconsulting.com or via LinkedIn 



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