Assess Situation & Resources

Here’s the thing about this focus areait helps you make decisions.

It’s that simple.  Knowing what’s going on with your situation and resources can be critical to any next steps.

When you are facing a tough decision, a crisis, or something complex – it’s a good place to start.  What's the situation?  What resources are available?

Tools and resources on this are listed at the bottom of the page.  The discussion in the next sections can help you make decisions in a disruption.  These principles fit a massive worldwide catastrophe like the pandemic we're in just as well as they fit any other disruption. 

Situation and resources (this page) plus risk are the keys to decision-making in a crisis.

Here's a post with more from an incident management perspective, "Decision Support Information, aka Incident Intelligence."  These basic concepts are used on everything from daily emergencies to huge disasters.  Why do we care?  Because this stuff has been tested - thousands of times; in super intense situations.  We know the concepts work, because firefighters and police and other first responders use them for incident management at any scale.  And anyone can use them - for all kinds of scenarios.


Assessing the situation is about what is happening related to your particular concern or concerns – right now.  Not what’s going to happen.  What’s happening now.  (Risk is about potential – what could happen.  On its own, it’s a different area in depth.  Yet it’s a part of situational awareness that we often inherently consider.)

You can assess the situation by collecting information about what's going on.  For any decision, it can be any of the information you can collect relevant to what needs to be decided.  In business, perhaps this is data.  In your home finances, it might be collecting all of your financial statements, budget, and assets.  In incident management, this may be done by one or more field observers who collect intel and pass it along.

Situation assessment and situational awareness are about what’s happening all around you.  An example from The Before (pre-pandemic):  walking in the dark at night, or riding a subway?  Wearing headphones impairs your situational awareness.  Now that we're in the pandemic, situational awareness when you're out walking around anywhere takes on a whole different dimension.

In the information age, keeping up to speed on the current situation is increasingly challenging.  There are tons of data points – it’s easy to get information overload.  Balance and perspective are critical to avoiding analysis paralysis. 

You don't need all of the possible information to make a decision to move forward. 

You need enough information to make a good decision in the moment. 

An incident commander managing a fast-moving wildfire threatening a hospital isn't going to get all of the possible information about everything before taking action.  But taking action without any situation information could be counterproductive - or even dangerous.  Striking a balance between getting information and knowing when it's time to decide and act is an art form. 

For your own personal situation, or for an unfolding urgent situation - you may be the best closest available expert.  Get the best info you can, but don't get stuck.  What is the decision you need to make?  What kind of info do you need to help decide?  Can you get that info within a reasonable period of time to help with that decision? 

Situation assessment can be small-scale or huge.  Keeping up on the situation as it relates to decisions you need to make can help make you more efficient and effective.  The sphere of control is helpful, too, for knowing what information you want and need to keep up on - and what you can set aside.

We can’t do it all.  We can’t know it all.  A little faith, belief, and intuition can play a part too in whatever you are navigating.


What do you have for resources?  What's easily available, and what's around you right now?  What's on its way?  What can you get soon?  What is wise or essential to get soon, and what can you wait on?

Resources are any asset that can help you and your team make things happen.  People are resources.  Resources can be financial. Resources may be tools or equipment or supplies, such as computers, office supplies, people, equipment, systems, and capabilities.  In incident management, resources can be anything from fire engines to portable pumps to helicopters to batteries.

Knowing what resources you have and have reasonable access to helps you make a plan

Knowing your resource status helps you know what situation and risk you may be able to handle.  It can help you with strategy and tactics in finding ways forward.

Bring It Together

Knowing your situation and resource status are critical to decision-making in general. 

They help to break out a complex situation.  That's why these are called out in incident management principles for managing everyday incidents to major disasters. 

You don’t manage chaos well at any level without first looking at the situation, the resources, and the risk.

On a huge wildfire, you might have a whole group of people working just on the situation, another whole team assessing and ordering resources, and another group focused on risk and what’s coming (only they call it fire behavior and fire danger).  In the incident management world, there are whole processes for assessing situation, resources, and risk; incorporating it into an operational plan; executing it; and going back through the process again.  The “Planning P” used in the Incident Command System (ICS) shows a "big picture" idea of how these things play out in a cycle in the decision process at an incident.

There are ways through. 

Getting good situation and resource information - plus a good sense for risk - helps you be better positioned to find ways through.  As always, there's coaching or consulting available to help, and more on this subject in the blog posts and resources below.

2018 posts assess situation & resources
Shift the Country - White Paper

The Shift the Country white paper is the basic foundation for the 501(c)(4) organization, mission, and initial operations.

10 Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide

From the site:  "The good news is, all over the country people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion.  More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it — often in greater numbers and with stronger voices.   This guide sets out 10 principles for fighting hate in your community."

BOOK: Collapse, by Jared Diamond

"Collapse:  How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," by Jared Diamond.  A TED talk is available here, and posted to videos.

BOOK: Originals, by Adam Grant

"Originals:  How Non-Conformists Move the World," by Adam Grant.  From the book jacket, "Using surprising studies and stories spanning the worlds of business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant debunks the common belief that successful non-conformists are born leaders who boldly embrace risk.  Originals explains now anyone can spot opportunities for change, recognize a good idea, overcome anxiety and ambivalence, and make suggestions without being silenced."

BOOK: Stress-Free Sustainability, by Adam Hammes

"Stress-Free Sustainability:  Leverage Your Emotions, Avoid Burnout, and Influence Anyone," by Adam Hammes, an Iowa author based in Des Moines.  Interview here.

BOOK: The 9/11 Commission Report

"The 9/11 Commission Report:  Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States."

BOOK: The Primes (+ videos, website)

From author Chris McGoff in Part 1 of the book:  "How do some people, organizations, and coalitions thrive in uncertain times?  What enables them to appear so certain and take decisive action amid ambiguity about the future?"  The PRIMES website says "The PRIMES are universal patterns of group behavior that outfit you to work with any group to solve any problem - especially the big ones."  The PRIMES book notes "... Here's the deal.  Almost all the tame problems have been solved.  We get to solve the wicked problems.  Wicked problems affect a lot of peple and it takes a lot of people, all with their own agendas, to collaborate and solve them. ... The people who, amid uncertainty, successfully lead large problem-solving groups share these characteristics.  First, they are clear about what they are up to and how they spend their precious time.  Second, they are intentional and willing to go first.  Finally, they have mastered the art of enrolling others to join them."  The PRIMES website also has short videos and info about each of The PRIMES.  Another core counterfear resource is Chris McGoff's TEDx Rock Creek talk on "Quad4: Realm of Your Highest Impact and Highest Risk."  The author's company The Clearing has done significant work on wicked problems in many counterfear focus areas.

Disaster Resistant Communities Group

"The Disaster Resistant Communities Group was established to provide a host of disaster planning and preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation services to local, regional, state and national agencies and departments as well as community and faith based organizations."  Excellent resource, including for free training and exercises.

FS-ISAC: Financial Serv. Info Sharing/Analysis Ctr

Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC):  "The only industry forum for collaboration on critical security threats facing the global financial services sector.  When attacks occur, early warning and expert advice can mean the difference between business continuity and widespread business catastrophe.  Members of the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) worldwide receive timely notification and authoritative information specifically designed to help protect critical systems and assets from physical and cyber security threats."

Heroic Improv

"We all have a hero inside of us. When a catastrophe strikes, our heroes are called upon. In the heroic improvisation practice, we practice how to be ready to put on our proverbial capes and fly. Disaster preparation training might not like sound fun... knowing how to act heroically with others is the key. What determines success when catastrophe strikes is our ability to listen, trust and act together... Potential danger requires us to know the plan of action, and chaos requires us to improvise responses to execute it. The heroic improvisation workshop puts us in a chaotic situation and gives us the felt-sense of moving into action together in a high stakes situation."

ISACs: Information Sharing & Analysis Centers

"Sector-based Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) collaborate and coordinate with each other via the National Council of ISACs (NCI). Formed in 2003, the NCI today comprises 24 organizations designated by their sectors as their information sharing and operational arms. The NCI is a true cross-sector partnership, providing a forum for sharing cyber and physical threats and mitigation strategies among ISACs and with government and private sector partners during both steady-state conditions and incidents requiring cross-sector response. ...Council members are present on the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) watch floor, and NCI representatives can embed with National Infrastructure Coordinating Center (NICC) during significant national incidents."

MUSIC: Everything is Awesome - from The Lego Movie

Theme song from The Lego Movie.  Intro lyrics from Google Play:  "Everything is awesome / Everything is cool when you're part of a team / Everything is awesome when we're living our dream / Everything is better when we stick together / Side by side, you and I gonna win forever, let's party forever / We're the same, I'm like you, you're like me, we're all working in harmony..."

Spontaneous Volunteer Leads At Hurricane Shelter

"An Unlikely Hurricane Hero Takes Over Chaotic Texas Storm Shelter."  News story about a man with no background or training who spontaneously led operations at a shelter during Hurricane Harvey in Texas.  Excellent example of real-life Heroic Improv.  As a fire chief friend says, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."  Anyone can lead.

Tool: Getting Unstuck

Excellent blog post tool when you are "Stuck on What's Next." #FindAWayForward.

VIDEO: How Do We Hold US Through The Inauguration?

So the US President isn't willing to commit to a peaceful transition of power. Now what? We have options for everyday actions. It's more than voting, and it's more than protesting. Check this out to find out more (also we do know how to spell - major typo in the video chyron though). 9/24/20. This video was livestreamed to our Shift the Country FB Page as well.

VIDEO: How To Be Effective In A Crisis, In 11 Mins

A quick look at the very practical principles at work in some of the biggest emergencies in the US that you can use for action & in every day life for getting through chaos. (Addendum: the video kind of blows through a key part about making a plan & executing it, and then iterating/evolving the plan and the execution of that plan regularly as the situation, resources, & risk change. Insert all that in the middle & it's a pretty decent quick overview.) This was broadcast originally on our Shift the Country Facebook Page on August 15, 2020.

VIDEO: ODNI Stops Some Intel Briefings To Congress

Reaction to reporting that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has stopped in-person election interference intelligence briefings to Congress (see MSNBC story on this subject also: August 30, 2020. Also discusses certain areas for civic engagement related to this news and what it means for the US.

VIDEO: On Trying Not To Get Dead

We talk a lot about trying not to get dead. This is on some of the tough decisions that can help with the staying alive. Awkward though. Also more emotional than expected. People are good, though. It sucks that we have to consider this kind of stuff. 24 minutes. Originally published on Facebook on August 7, 2020.

VIDEO: Powering Through Upcoming Chaos & Loss

The world between now & the inauguration in the US is going to be like nothing we've ever seen. It's going to take everything we've got to get through it. This is a bit of how to do that. 9/25/20.

VIDEO: Realm of Your Highest Impact & Risk - TEDx

"Quad4: Realm of Your Highest Impact and Highest Risk:" Chris McGoff at TEDxRockCreekPark.  This is a Counterfear Anchorpoint, because it is a rare, short look at what we need to do to solve wicked problems.  Also check out Chris McGoff's website and book "The PRIMES," another posted Counterfear resource.  The website has videos and a summary of each of the PRIMES.

VIDEO: These 6 Months Are The Fight Of Our Lives

We're in some stuff. This one is on the 5 main parts of the risk landscape in front of us between now and February - through the election and transition of administrations. Plus - how do we survive? August 30, 2020.  The 5 main parts of the risk landscape include 1) the out of control coronavirus pandemic (and complex system interruptions and related cascading effects); 2) emerging authoritarianism in the US; 3) the influence of a growing nationalist oligarchy on destabilization in the US; 4) an information war with many fronts; 5) the election and transition of power. This also gets into the 5-part Shift the Country strategy to help us get through these next months.

VIDEO: Why Societies Collapse - Jared Diamond

From the TED blurb:  "Why do societies fail? With lessons from the Norse of Iron Age Greenland, deforested Easter Island and present-day Montana, Jared Diamond talks about the signs that collapse is near, and how - if we see it in time - we can prevent it."

VIDEO: Wicked Problems of Now vs. Magical Thinking

The initiative to Shift the Country was built in the summer of 2020 for this highly unique & unprecedented moment in time. It's a whole set of wicked problems, & some were understood to be huge risks prior to this year. Our framework is set up to help people navigate the complex landscape of multiple disasters combined with active erosion of government institutions and active obstruction of response efforts. The first 48 minutes get into how magical thinking works & why it isn't helpful now. The second half gets into complex systems, a great disruption, and catastrophe and big disaster preparation in the US based on experience inside the federal systems that were supposed to be built to help with some of the current crises. This was originally broadcast on our Shift the Country Facebook Page on August 9, 2020.