Assess Situation & Resources
Here’s the thing about this focus area: it 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.