2.1. Promoting common ground for cross-organizational collaboration in crisis management
In order to collaborate effectively at the time of a crisis, the people jointly involved in crisis management from different organizations need to have sufficient understanding of their mutual goals, expectations, capabilities, and operational procedures. This common ground can be achieved by promoting periodic information sharing activities or exercises involving the staff of different first responder organizations.
- 1 Implementation
- 2 Understanding the context
- 2.1 Detailed objectives
- 2.2 Targeted actors
- 2.3 Expected benefits
- 2.4 Relation to adaptive capacity
- 2.5 Relation to risk management
- 2.6 Illustration
- 2.7 Implementation considerations
- 3 Relevant material
- 4 Navigate in the DRMG
What is needed to promote common ground
To promote common ground and improved cooperation among the front-end staff of different first responders' organisations involved in crisis management, the managers of these organisations need to organise shared activities that allow the respective personnel to know each other.
Differently from what advised by the CC 2.3 Understanding roles and responsibilities, in this case, such activities should necessarily involve front-end staff and should not be limited to the managerial levels, nor to people simply delegated by them. In fact, the common ground implies a deeper understanding of working practices, motives and values that cannot be limited to the explicit knowledge encompassed by formal procedures and policies, but should also consider the way knowledge is concretely put into practice. A prerequisite for the application of the actions described in the card is the existence of a network of organisations already collaborating in crisis management activities. If each organisation is mostly operating in isolation and no mutual relationships have been established beyond those mandated by the law, it is advised to first apply the principle of the CC 2.2 Establishing networks. Depending on the specific phase (Before, During or After a crisis), the activities can be instantiated differently, as explained in the following sections.
Before a crisis
Promoting common ground among different organisation before any type of recent crisis or accident has occurred is in principle the most favourable situation. The managers of the different organisations are not biased by the interpretation of the events occurred during a previous crisis and less concerned by the sharing of information that might be used to assign responsibilities regarding past events. On the other hand, the managers may face the problem of justifying their investments on common ground activities, in the absence of any recent event causing concerns in the organisation (owners or shareholders) or in the public opinion (taxpayers or other users of the service). The managers should first identify potential gaps in the mutual understanding between their own organisation and the other organisation with whom there is a collaboration in place, and then they should be promoters of one or more of the following actions:
- Organise information sharing workshops. The main goal of these workshops is that of allowing the staff of your organisation to gain useful insights into the mission, culture and operating methods of other organisations involved in crisis management. Such workshops can be organised by inviting relevant staff members of other organisations: (a) to attend presentations about own organisational mission, resources, dependencies and expectations (from other organisations), working methods and practices; (b) to provide their presentations about their own organisational mission, resources, dependencies and expectations (from other organisations), working methods and practices. The workshops may also foster cross-fertilization of practices among different organisations.
- Organise periodic visits of own staff to facilities of other organisations, so as to provide an opportunity to own staff to learn about the resources and procedures of other relevant organisations. Host similar visits by other organisations.
- Organise joint crisis preparation exercises in order to address potential sources of joint activity breakdowns. These include, for instance, the use of inconsistent maps by different actors to refer to the same crisis area; the use of specialist terminologies that may be unclear or ambiguous to the teams of other organisations; conflicts in resource usage.
These conditions may slow down understanding between team members of different organisations, thus slowing down the crisis response process. Thus crisis preparation exercises—such as drills, review of emergency plans, review of past disasters—should be conducted jointly, i.e., at least one operational expert from each relevant organisation need to be involved in order to achieve an adequate representation of the organisation that may have to cooperate at the time of the crisis. Besides the identification of breakdowns, these exercises can be helpful for the identification of potential synergies in (for instance, the knowing about useful resources available by another partner may be helpful in case own resources are insufficient).
- What is our understanding of the mission, culture and operating methods of other organizations with whom we need to collaborate in crisis management?
- What is the level of understanding of our mission, culture and operating methods by other organizations with whom we need to collaborate in crisis management?
- Are there opportunities for organizing workshops with one or more of the organizations collaborating with us in crisis management and for sharing presentations about our respective mission, culture and operating methods?
- If such workshops were already organized in the past, is there a need to repeat such experiences to take into account relevant changes in each organization and the turnover of our respective staff members?
Visit to other organizations
- Are there opportunities for organizing visits of our staff members to the facilities of other organizations collaborating with us in crisis management and vice-versa?
- If such visits were already organized in the past, is there a need to repeat such experiences to take into account relevant changes in each organization and the turnover of our respective staff members?
Joint drills and crisis preparation exercises
- Are there opportunities for organizing joint drills and crisis preparation exercises with other organizations collaborating with us in crisis management?
- Do we use specialist terminologies that may be unclear or ambiguous to the teams of other organisations and should be addressed in joint crisis preparation exercises?
- Can we think of possible sources of joint activity breakdowns that should be addressed in crisis preparation exercises?
- Can we envision the presence of conflicts in resource usage that should be addressed in joint crisis preparation exercises?
- Can we think of potential synergies between our organization and other organizations that should be addressed in joint crisis preparation exercises?
During a crisis
During the development of crisis requiring the collaboration among different organisations, the conditions to promote common ground can be very different, depending on the type of crisis. When the crisis takes the form of an emergency where time is a critical factor, the organisation may only count on the common ground that was established before the crisis itself. On the other side, if the crisis has a longer timeframe (e.g. at least two days, up to several months), the promotion of common ground actions could be beneficial, provided that they do not interfere with the activities of the crisis units, operation centres or task forces already established to manage the crisis. Among those described for the Before Crisis phase, the following should be considered:
- Identify potential gaps in the mutual understanding
- Organise information sharing workshops.
- Organise visits of own staff to facilities of other organisations
For very long crises (e.g. those lasting more than a month), it may be beneficial to also organise joint crisis management exercises to simulate and test specific parts of the interventions required to solve the crisis. Examples of situations in which these exercises are useful are those in which the crisis is very complex and requires coordinated interventions in areas that may be unfamiliar to the front-end staff and in which the personnel might be exposed to risks in case of misunderstandings among the different actors. In order to guide the process, a self-assessment based on answering the same triggering questions proposed for the Before Crisis phase is advised, in association with the respective thematic areas.
After a crisis
The managers of organisations cooperating in crisis management activities will probably find easier to justify the investments on common ground actions, if at least part of these organisations have already experienced a real crisis. On the other hand, depending on the development of the crisis itself, the relationships among the organisations might be more or less difficult, especially if there is no shared view of the responsibilities for what happened and if on-going investigations make the sharing of information among the organisations more delicate than in no crisis periods.
Generally speaking, the same actions identified for the Before Crisis phase will also apply to this phase, except for the fact that the lessons learnt from the crisis will be very useful to guide both the identification of gaps in mutual understanding', as well as the good coordination practices emerged during the management of the crisis. However, the organisers of the common ground actions should pay particular attention to the risk of being excessively biased by the specific events occurred during the crisis which was just experiences.
Therefore the Information sharing workshops, the Visits of own staff to the facilities of other organisations, the Joint drills and crisis preparation exercises will have to consider both the specificities of that crisis and other alternative scenarios that may lead to different types of crisis.
In order to guide the process, a self-assessment based on answering the same triggering questions proposed for the Before Crisis phase is advised, in association with the respective thematic areas.
Understanding the context
Rationale. In order to collaborate effectively at the time of a crisis, the people involved in crisis management, from different organizations and/or from different departments of the same organization need to have a sufficient understanding of their mutual goals, expectations, capabilities, and operational procedures (Kuziemsky and O’Sullivan, 2015; Collins et al., 2012; O’Sullivan et al., 2013). For example, the personnel of fire brigade, medical teams, police offices, civil protection departments, area control centers, etc. need to understand their mutual needs, in order to operate effectively and safely while minimizing losses. However, establishing such a common ground (Kuziemsky and O’Sullivan, 2015; Collins et al., 2012) is not necessary an easy goal to achieve. Division of work in large organizations tend to result in different units and subunits, each characterized by (i) its own situated perspective, (ii) specialist language, (iii) resources, (iv) temporal and productive pressures (O’Sullivan et al., 2013; Klein et al., 2005), so that, while personnel tend to see clearly their local objective, they may also fail to see opportunities for collaborating effectively with other units in order to work towards larger, shared goals (Hopkins, 2006; Hansen, 2009). This dynamic, which can be termed as the silo effect (Hopkins, 2006), is exacerbated when staff members that have to collaborate belong to different organizations. The existence of organizational barriers to the flow of knowledge, information and people, combined with the fact that different organizations have different missions, organizational cultures, resources and operating procedures, implies that it is not necessarily easy for staff members engaged in joint activity to establish a common set of mutual and shared knowledge, assumptions and belief that is functional to the management of the crisis.
Compared with card Understanding roles and responsibilities of other actors, the present card targets different organizational roles. This card is directed to the widest number of first response operators of different organizations. The former card involves, instead one or a few point of contact from each organizations that will participate in the shared activities, and then will disseminate internally information about roles and responsibilities of other organizations.
- The card implementing user include relevant back-end roles that are able to implement the actions mandated by the card. Arguably, these will be middle managers and/or relevant experts that maintain close ties with other organizations;
- Actors: different teams of front-end crisis response operators.
Improved capability to manage situations of crisis requiring joint involvement of more organizations, thanks to improved cooperation and collaboration among the front end staff of these organizations.
Relation to adaptive capacity
Relation to risk management
The card promotes the consideration of human and organizational aspects involved in the response phase of the crisis. In particular it promotes the consideration of cross-organizational aspects that can improve joint activity in crisis management. Therefore, the present card is particularly relevant for the successful implementation of the outcome of the risk management process, the risk mitigation solutions which can be defined as a result of the risk management process (see for instance the ISO 31000 risk management standard - ISO, 2009).
The joint initiatives mandated by this card presupposes the availability of:
- Sufficient commitment by the senior managers of the involved organisations;
- Sufficient mutual trust and existence of communication channels across organisations.At least these conditions need to be satisfied to organize the joint initiatives aimed at improving common ground which are recommended by this card (see next section). Note that in case of implementation in contexts in which the relevant organizations do not already collaborate, the successful implementation of this card may be favored by the card Establishing networks.
Relevant Practices, Methods and Tools
- Reviews of shared maps prior to the preparation of large scale events. During the preparation of the World Youth Day in Kracov, the relevant leaders/experts of the first responders’ organizations meet in order to define a common map of the area of the event. Once the joint map of the event was defined it was communicated to front end operators. This was reported to ensure that these referred to the same reference points (e.g. sector X, emergency exit 1) in their communications (e.g., call by security guards to obtain medical assistance in a given area, provision of instruction to the direction of crowd flow, etc.).
- Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo - ANSV (2013), Relazione di inchiesta: Incidente occorso all’aeromobile ATR 72-212A (ATR72-500) marche di identificazione YR-ATS, aeroporto di Roma Fiumicino, 2 febbraio 2013.
- Collins S.A., Mamykina L., Jordan D., Stein D.M., Shine A., Reyfman P., Kaufman D. (2012), In search of common ground in handoff documentation in an Intensive Care Unit, in Journal of Biomedical Informatics, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 307–315, .
- Hansen M. (2009), Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results, Harvard Business Review Press.
- Hopkins A. (2006), Studying organisational cultures and their effects on safety, Safety Science, vol. 44, no. 10, pp. 875–889.
- International Organization for Standardisation (2009), ‘ISO 31000: 2009 Risk management--Principles and guidelines’.
- Klein G., Feltovich P. J., Bradshaw J.M., and Woods D.D. (2005), Common ground and coordination in joint activity, Organizational Simulation, vol. 53, 2005.
- Kuziemsky C.E. and O’Sullivan T.L. (2015), A model for common ground development to support collaborative health communities, Social Science & Medicine, vol. 128, pp. 231–238.
- O’Sullivan T.L., Kuziemsky C.E., Toal-Sullivan D., and Corneil W. (2013), Unraveling the complexities of disaster management: A framework for critical social infrastructure to promote population health and resilience, Social Science & Medicine, vol. 93, pp. 238–246.
- Salas E. and Fiore S.M.(2004), In Salas E. & Fiore S.M. (Eds.), Team cognition: Understanding the factors that drive process and performance (pp. 3-8). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.
- Common Ground
Common Ground is a basis agreed by different parties for reaching a mutual understanding. In this context, a common ground between two or more organizations is achieved when the representatives of one organization have at least a high-level knowledge of the activities, goals, values and working environments of the other organization. Reaching common ground means being able to observe from two different perspectives an activity or process on which the two organization have shared responsibilities. A benefit of common ground is the formulation of correct expectations on how the other organization will operate in a given circumstance so to facilitate a more effective collaboration.
- Cross Fertilization
Cross Fertilization is the mixing of the ideas, customs, etc. of different places or groups of people, to produce a better result (Source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/cross-fertilization). In this context, it should be mainly intended as the creative process by which organizations from different sectors and with different experiences exchange views and get inspiration for the innovative use of an existing technology (i.e. transfer of technology) or for a different application of an existing procedure or practice.