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Content archived on 2024-06-16

Threat Rigidity and Decision Making in Crisis Response Teams

Final Activity Report Summary - TRIDEM (Threat Rigidity and Decision Making in Crisis Response Teams)

The key objectives of our proposed research were to identify the decision heuristics that occurred in crisis response teams and might generate threat rigidity, as well as to investigate the effects of incomplete information and time pressure on threat rigidity in team decisions. To achieve these objectives, we developed an empirical research program consisting of in-situ observations, interviews, group meetings, surveys and controlled experimentation, based on a thorough analysis of the existing literature in this domain.

In-situ observations, lasting more than 800 hours in total, were conducted at two large organisations, a financial institution and a nuclear power plant respectively, focusing on the organisations' 'incident management' processes and teams. These observations were guided by principles from sense-making theory and decision heuristics, and resulted in an in-depth analysis of the reliability of these organisations, the performance of the teams involved in the incident management process and the use of decision support systems (DSS) or other information systems in these teams' decision making. These observations were complemented by targeted interviews of team members at all levels of the organisation, from top management to technical crews, while group meetings supported by group support systems were conducted in order to identify threats to the organisational processes.

An extensive survey was administered to over 600 members of these organisations, allowing us to analyse the key reliability characteristics as defined in literature. Our results indicated that these characteristics were, in contrast to what was generally believed, not independent, but should be re-defined in order to explain the observed organisational 'high reliability' behaviour. Finally, findings of this empirical research were further analysed in a pilot experiment involving students of Tilburg University, aiming to analyse how individuals and groups made use of information to indentify critical organisational threats.

The findings of our research were (or would) published in leading information systems journals, among which the international 'Journal of Information Systems Security, Decision Support Systems, and the Communications of the ACM', as well as in the 'International Journal of Emergency Management'. In addition, we presented our work at a variety of international conferences in Europe and abroad.

Finally, this research program and the many international research contacts it enabled were instrumental in establishing and further developing an international community of scholars and practitioners focusing on the design, development, use and evaluation of information systems for crisis response and management (ISCRAM). The ISCRAM Community was widely recognised as a key actor in this domain and, by the time of the project completion, had over 1 600 members worldwide, many of whom met at the annual conferences in China, Europe and the USA.