Crisis Decision-making

Underlying AlphaTRAC’s decision training products and services is a process for effective decision-making in crisis environments. AlphaTRAC has adapted the recognition-primed decision (RPD) model into a six-step method for applying past experiences to a current crisis.

The 6-Steps to Experience-based Decisions

1. Characterize: Size up the situation using available information

2. Recognize: Search a knowledge base for the first event that adequately matches current conditions

3. Analyze: Compare the past event to the situation at hand

4. Customize: Adapt and modify the past event to reflect the current event

5. Dramatize: Mentally rehearse the decision to verify it is likely to work

6. Utilize: Put the decision into play

Decision Research

In recent years, decision researchers determined that RPD was the approach most often used by successful crisis decision makers, especially when they were under conditions of time pressure and uncertainty. In the RPD model, crisis managers recognize and apply past experiences to find a solution to the problem at hand.

The approach is used by firefighters, military personnel, design engineers, offshore oil installation managers, commercial aviation pilots, and emergency responders in other fields.

The RPD model works because:

  • It is fast: The first “good enough” solution is found and implemented, avoiding the need to characterize or compare all options to find the optimal solution
  • It reduces complexity: An existing event is selected and adapted, avoiding the need for a full analysis; as a result, “paralysis by analysis” is avoided
  • It works with limited data: Partial characterization of an event triggers recognition, helping to avoid  “paralysis by data collection”
  • It detects poor data: Information that doesn’t fit the model is quickly detected, causing a change in the solution or rejection of the anomaly
  • It adapts to rapidly changing event conditions: Expectations are developed for “what next” and, if not matched, the change is quickly captured and the decision modified
  • It converts chaos into order: It converts a confusing situation into a recognized analog
  • Most important of all: It aligns with the way effective decision makers think

The Model in Use

Decision Training Workshop

AlphaTRAC offers an instructor-led course that focuses on how to make rapid, actionable decisions in a crisis. It describes a step-by-step approach to effective decision-making using a mix of lectures, seminar-style discussions, drills, and exercises.

AlphaACT® Applications

AlphaACT training solutions reinforce the six-step decision process through scenario play. The systems employ a pattern recognition engine to “recall” similar cases from a knowledge base of shared experiences, allowing the trainee to develop an effective course of action based upon a similar event from history.

Feedback on how to improve their decision-making is provided to trainees following scenario play.

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