Trail Safe Lesson 7 - Decision Making
In lesson seven will describe different strategies used to make decisions and how to apply optimal decisions to operational risk management. And we'll explain how certain personality traits can lead to hazardous thought patterns and explain what we can do to prevent them. The way in which we make decisions changes based upon the situation at hand when we encounter things that are expected to happen and are routine types of situations and we make our decisions based upon our skills and past experiences skill based decisions come automatically to us. What if our situation
changes and we become faced with problems. As long as the problems are familiar to us and we've had training in how to deal with them then we apply Rule based decisions to handle the situation. We pause referred to our safety policies and procedures and apply the rules to our problems. Rule based decisions are a combination of automatic and conscious reactions when our situation presents us with some serious problem one that may be brand new to us and may be dangerous. Then we must apply knowledge based decisions to solve the problem. We have to consciously stop use the things we learned
about an operational risk management to fully examine the situation and then proceed.
Let's look briefly at each of these in more detail.
Skill based decisions are carried out in routine highly practiced tasks most repetitive job skills are examples of skill based decisions. If we need to trim back the vegetation along the sides of the trail we select pruners as our tool rather than a machete. Skill based decisions happen automatically with little or no thought required. This works well when our skills match the task. One potential drawback though is that the conscious part of our brain is not in control. Our decision program runs automatically and if the situation changes we may be making decisions using the wrong skill set.
Rule based decisions require a mix of conscious thought and automatic control and works best in handling fairly familiar problems or problems that we're trained to deal with. Our ability to effectively apply Rule based decision making is affected by our training memory stress level and our attitudes. We are required to think and evaluate based on a rule we have learned. A potential pitfall in a rule based decision making is that we are influenced by what has worked in the past and previous bad habits may steer us in the wrong direction. Think back to Lesson 3. When we looked at errors
and accident causation remember the discussion on outcome based behavior knowledge based decisions are needed when we find ourselves in unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situations. This strategy requires conscious thought and a structured decision making process. Our ability to make knowledge based decisions is impacted by our training memory stress level and attitudes. We are required to think about the problem evaluate it and find an appropriate decision strategy. Even if we have never learned exactly what to do because this technique is more time consuming and takes more mental effort. Some people
may be reluctant to do it.
We all have certain tendencies in our decision making processes in general decision making strategies fall into six basic categories minimizing moralizing muddling scanning denial and optimizing each one is more likely to be used in certain circumstances or during various levels of stress. And most of them have potential consequences. Let's quickly look at each of them.
Minimizing occurs when we select a course of action based on a minimum set of requirements the mind searches for and selects the first course of action that satisfies the minimum set of requirements.
Suppose we need to drive a nail but we don't see the hammer in our toolbox but we do find it. Let's see the back of the head.
It had to drive a nail just fine close enough moralizing occurs when we make a decision based on a perceived moral obligation factors leading to this strategy often include orders given to us by individuals in authority or perceived life and death situations. Moralizing most often comes into play in higher stress situations often hasty decisions are made without fully considering better alternatives and risks are not mitigated to a LRP as low as reasonably practical. Suppose a fellow
volunteers long overdue to return from working on the trail. It's getting dark rapidly and we feel a sense of urgency and moral obligation to go out ourselves and search. Are we fully prepared to do this correctly. What other actions can we take that are better and even more responsible in this situation. The muddling strategy involves incremental decision making. It usually starts with a minor short cut and then another and another that continue until they reach the point where a serious mistake happens. Incremental or superficial decision making eliminates the risk management process.
Suppose we start neglecting the scheduled maintenance on one of our pieces of equipment over time that can result in a variety of consequences from break down in remote areas of the trail or just ahead of a critical need that equipment cost repairs or replacement of the equipment or even malfunctions that result in injuries to ourselves or others.
The scanning strategy solves the problem by classifying information as either important or unimportant. Scanning is then done and only those alternatives containing important information. All other alternatives are treated as superficial scanning can lead to a failure to properly assess potentially serious problems that we deemed as unimportance. Let's say we open up the tool trailer and start picking and choosing what to bring along on our volunteer work project as we make her selections from the supplies and we come across the first aid kit. We hesitated weighing the pros and cons of curing.
One more thing along versus the likelihood of actually needing it.
This particular day is it important or unimportant the denial strategy tries to eliminate the problem by failing to recognize it exists.
Denial is most common in high to extreme stress levels in high stress situations. Our brains block information that increases our stress. Remember our discussion about selective attention back in less than five. Or we simply deny that we were having a problem. We've somehow gotten far off the trail. It's getting dark fast and we feel a great need to get back to the road before it's too late. The compass has to go one way but Ted just doesn't seem right. I don't have time to figure out this dumb compass and it never worked great to begin with. I'm going to walk straight this way and I should be fine. I'll pop out someplace
familiar before it's fully dark.
It has to the sixth and most effective decision strategy we can use is the optimize strategy optimizing considers the widest range of alternatives and weighs consequences according to their risk potential. We already learned the best way to use an optimizing strategy. When we reviewed the seven step process of operational risk management back in the lesson for mission analysis.
Final aspect of decision making that we need to discuss his personality traits. Maybe uncomfortable for us to get into this topic. But being able to recognize certain traits in ourselves and others. Of course. Does play a significant role in how we. As we'll see the following slide. Striking a balance is very important. Single personality trait. It's just like blood pressure problem. It's too low to.
Some personality traits when too strong or too weak can lead to hazardous thought patterns which can negatively impact decision making. They are anti-authority impulsiveness and vulnerability macho and resignation. Let's examine each one to find the positive and be aware of the negatives. Are first hazardous thought pattern is anti-authority. Once again the extreme ends of the spectrum are where problems develop too low and people may not be asking important questions or offering valuable insights
to high and people find themselves operating outside of required policies and safety procedures. When the correct balance is struck. Volunteers are following the rules while feeling empowered to voice valid concerns and questions. The next Hazard's thought pattern deals with impulsiveness. People with too low a tendency in this area have a hard time ever coming to a decision too high. And people react without thinking. Take a moment and examine your situation and rely on your past experiences in training to help you come to a considered
decision. Now is a good time to fully implement the operational risk management steps.
We've already discussed.
The extreme spectrums of invulnerability are also hazardous thought patterns. People may feel that everything is too risky or that nothing bad will ever happen to them. Understand that we are all vulnerable to risk but using our trail safe skills we can effectively mitigate risks to acceptable levels. Once again when making decisions about risk. Remember our most important acronym LRP as low as reasonably practical.
The term macho could be replaced with the term confidence. We need some amount of confidence to take action in any situation but being overly macho can get us or those around us into dangerous situations. Group dynamics or peer pressure may be an effective way to help bolster confidence in those who are too timid to bring overly confident volunteers back to a safer mindset.
The final hazardous thought pattern for us to be aware of is resignation. Some people with low resignation trades give up too easily. While those with high resignation tendencies may not be flexible enough to adjust to a better safer way of getting the job done. There are ways to achieve the desired result and there may be various ways of getting there. As in all other hazardous thought patterns the extremes are where we experience failure. Find the middle ground and you'll most often find a safe way to achieve your goal.
So this concludes Lesson 7 of Trail Safe, decision making. We've got one more lessons to cover. In Lesson 8 we'll discuss communication and assertiveness. See you there.