Can we reconcile realistic war-games with insightful facilitation?

Written by Chelsea Zfaz and Dr. Carmit Rapaport
The Methodology of War-games

Contemporary approaches to war-games and tabletop exercises offer a process-focused Good Better Best Dice Representing Ratingsreview of an organization or company’s crisis response capacity. A proven method to enhance a team’s ability to manage a crisis, war-gaming challenges personnel to communicate and collaborate during various simulated scenarios in order to reveal the people and processes that elicit the actual resolution of the crisis.

The pervasive challenge of designing and facilitating effective war-games is simulating realistic scenarios that the participants actually learn to manage while identifying and reporting insights about how and why people think and act the way they do.

The Dilemma

In order to understand the thought-processes and behaviors of participants, simulations are often paused to open space for reflective discussion. Yet this freezing of the crisis management simulation is by no means a realistic step in the management process, it actually directly detracts from the realism of the simulation.

So how can we, as war-game developers, extract insights during war-games that don’t damage the genuine process of crisis management simulations? How can we ensure that the value of the lessons learned while stopping the simulation justifies the cost of the interference?

Is there an Ideal Solution?

In our experience, opening space for exploring the motives of participants lends incredible understanding to outcomes of simulations. A question as simple as “why did you decide to do x/y/z?” can provoke explanations that not only shed light on the causative factors behind people’s reasoning and decision-making but also on the perceptions that players have of themselves and their roles in the larger context of the management scheme. Such reflection on tacit personal and group cognitive processes allows for a better understanding of the entire organizational workflow, and helps in the identification of fundamental gaps in crisis management.

Yet the fact remains that pausing a simulation, even in the name of the most formative discussion, does not reflect what its actually like to deal with crises in reality.

BeST has developed a way to circumvent this dilemma. We’ve created a questionnaire template that players in simulations can use to design inquiries to elicit specific information from other players. Players can ask anything imaginable of other players, and can include as many answer options as desired (open answers present challenges for analysis and therefore are not currently included in the questionnaires).

While these questionnaires do not offer the same level of open discussion as an actual mediated conversation could provide, they’re significantly less intrusive than the alternative. Though facilitating the active questioning of players by players has proven to extract information effectively and non-intrusively, there exists no better method of understanding how and why people think and act the way they do than through open communication. Furthermore, this information can serve as a valuable dataset for further fine-tuning of the crisis management process as well as for other organizational inquiries relating to the daily operational functioning.

So we pose the question to you- how can we, as war-gamers, optimize the extraction of insights while maintaining the realism of our simulations?

BeST extends a warm welcome to Dr. Carmit Rapaport!!

We at BeST at thrilled to announce that Dr. Carmit Rapaport will be joining our team!

Dr. Rapaport is the Director of the NIRED – the Institute for Regulation of Emergencies and Disasters. She is also the Academic Coordinator of the Master’s programs in Coping with Disasters and Fire Studies at the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa.

Recently, Dr. Rapaport has been nominated for the Academic Advisor to the Israeli National Center for Resilience of the Israeli NEMA (National Emergency Management Authority) and IDF’s Home Front Command.

Dr. Rapaport received her Ph.D.  From the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 2011. Her areas of expertise include business continuity, crisis leadership, preparedness, social resilience and population behavior during emergencies.

We are delighted to see Dr. Rapaport join our team as BeST continues to evolve into the unique War-Gaming tool that it is today. Our ability today to provide immediate insights and lessons learned is unparalleled in the War-Gaming community and Dr. Rapaport’s research will enable BeST to continue growing and continue providing the level of excellence our customers have come to rely on.

BeST is in the UK!!

BeST are delighted to announce that we are partnering with Monte Alto Solutions in the UK for the provision of our services.

Monte Alto Solutions will work with BeST as our strategic partner across a number of functional areas including, initial request for information, demonstration, client business development, sales and marketing, consultancy, ongoing client relationship management and implementation.

Following closely from BeST’s recent agreement with IATA – the agreement with Monte Alto demonstrates further expansion, into Europe as BeST’s products and services continue to evolve.

Partnering with Monte Alto solutions represents another step forward for BeST as we grow our market share in the European arena. The partnership enables both organisations to provide a more comprehensive, surround service to benefit our customers.

The Monte Alto team will support BeST management in business development and client relationship management, while the BeST management team remains at the heart of our service provision. Both organisations will ensure that the service is tailored to the specific needs of our clients – from designing and building to service delivery and onward through the long-term relationship. This will also allow our Clients to develop new scenarios and challenges for the future – to get the very best out of our products.

We fully believe that the service will be more comprehensive and encompassing – but also more intimate, focusing on the specific client need.

The Monte Alto team will work seamlessly with BeST. They will visit client offices and, supported by our on-line team, will create the right solution/ war game / business continuity test for the clients.

Julian Knott CEO of Monte Alto Solutions said “BeST provides a valuable, and possibly unique business tool for clients that want to test their business continuity and contingency plans at a strategic and operational level. We are proud and honoured to be a business partner across the UK and Europe for such a dynamic organisation.”

The management of BeST and Monte Alto Solutions share common business values and methodologies. Both organisations are highly client-focused and believe that world class service is the cornerstone of customer care.

The BeST “war game” is more than gamification or simulation, it is a unique interactive business tool that tests and records the way a business manages a real-life situation in real time. The ability to track and record decisions and responses and provide instantaneous feedback and reports through an easy to use management dashboard – gives control to the client.

The power of the management tool is that it can measure operational performance and strategic governance and risk.  This forms the basis for cost saving and cost efficiency. However, of even greater value is the protection of the business operation, people, customers and stakeholders. Business reputation and brand integrity is also more assured by a thorough examination of processes and policy, security, and business systems.

For more information contact Monte Alto Solutions:

 julianknott@montealto.co.uk

Richardmowat@montealto.co.uk

Professor Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum has joined the BeST team!!

We are very pleased to announce that Professor Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum has joined the BeST team!!

Dr. Alan(Avi) Kirschenbaum31Professor Kirschenbaum brings with him a wealth of experience in the field of disaster management and has served as a Senior Research Fellow at the Neaman Institute for National Policy Research at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and as the initiator and coordinator of The BEMOSA consortium, a 15 partner Europe-wide research project aimed at improving security in airports. He was also a participating partner in PsyCris, an EU project dealing with mass disasters and its psychosocial consequences, during which his focus was on contingency planning.
Professor Kirschenbaum is also a member of the Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe (ACARE) Workgroup for Safety and Security. In addition to authoring numerous scientific journal articles and book chapters, he has served on the editorial boards of leading international journals, on executive boards of international research committees, international academic associations and was a past director of research of the Population Behavior Section, Israel’s Home Front Command.

 

Professor Kirschenbaum remarked “I am very excited to join BeST, whose management and employees reflect the highest level of work ethic and performance in a wide area of disciplines. My decision to join reflects my belief in extrapolating applied research in the behavioral sciences to provide innovative and cutting-edge products that has become an integral part of BeST’s service platform”.

 

“We are happy to see Professor Kirschenbaum join our team, as we see the immense added value that will be provided to our clients as BeST continues in its never-ending pursuit of providing a unique system set apart from solutions on the market by its ability to not only identify gaps in organizations’ policies and practices but also to explore the causative factors behind such gaps” says BeST Co-CEO Mr. Dotan Sagi

Aviation Security Crisis Management Simulation

We are proud to announce the following course that has been designed in accordance with IATA Training.

The course is called ‘Aviation Security Crisis Management Simulation’ and focuses on using the Scenario powered by BeST platform to carry out War-gaming sessions focusing on security crisis management.

For more details, please go to http://www.iata.org/training/courses/Pages/avsec-crisis-management-simulation-tscs14.aspx

 

From Katrina to Irma and everything in between…

by Chelsea Zfaz

The response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas presents a unique opportunity to evaluate the quality and scope of government and non-government organizations’ emergency preparedness and response capacity.

The United States in general (and Texas in particular) are accustomed to large-scale natural disasters. There is a widespread understanding across the US that emergency preparedness is critical to both the continuity and the efficacy of government agencies, law enforcement agencies, municipalities, medical systems and aid groups alike.

Lessons learned from the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 undoubtedly bolstered emergency preparedness efforts for relevant actors vis-à-vis Hurricane Harvey, yet the extent of those lessons and their ability to be translated into a more effectual response have yet to elucidate. 

War-games and tabletop exercises have become the normative mechanisms for increasing emergency preparedness, coordination and response capacities. When discussing their preparation work for post-Katrina disasters, many healthcare workers and emergency responders cited coordination training exercises as primary mechanisms for increasing preparedness within their organizations.

In an interview with the New York Times on preparing for Hurricane Harvey, Darrell Pile, chief executive of the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council (which established a catastrophic medical operations center in Houston’s emergency command center), explained that a large association of medical providers had trained and planned regularly for catastrophes, “but honestly, not at this epic level”, he disclosed.

The Texas Medical Center, drawing on tough lessons learned after Hurricane Allison flooded its facilities and forced emergency patient evacuations in 2001, locked its newly-installed submarine doors when Hurricane Harvey made landfall, effectively preventing flooding and protecting every one of its patients.

The Texas Medical Center’s preparedness paid-off for its patients, yet it’s eight helicopters could not land at the center due to high winds. William McKeon, the center’s president and chief executive, explained “I’ve never heard so few sirens as I have in the last few days, which is upsetting. We can be dry and open but if you can’t deliver patients to the medical center, that’s our biggest concern.”

An organization can enjoy the highest level of disaster preparedness possible, yet if it’s partner organizations, delivery services or surrounding environments are lacking readiness to respond, they too shall experience the throes of being unprepared.

Emergency drills and coordination trainings are critical steps in preparing for disasters, yet it is sorely insufficient to claim ‘preparedness’ for a disaster after a single training exercise. The pervasive challenge remains translating lessons learned from trainings and past experiences into enhanced operational procedures and coordination.

Ben Taub Hospital
August 27, 2017: Flood waters inundate Houston’s Ben Taub Hospital, a major trauma center in the Texas Medical Center campus, which had spent billions of dollars on flood protections after Hurricane Allison in 2001.

Organizational Learning Through Comparative Analysis

This is the third of a three-part post, in which you will learn about the three stages of a BeST game:

  • Designing a game
  • Facilitating a game
  • Evaluating a game

 

During this post, we’re going to be discussing the evaluation of a game, during which advanced analyses map out discrepancies in organizations assumed/expected performance and their actual/proven performance.

What sets the BeST system apart from other war-gaming simulators and tabletop exercise solutions on the market is its ability to not only identify gaps in organizations’ policies and practices but also to explore the causative factors behind such gaps.

Most people agree that practice doesn’t always follow policy- especially in crisis management- but why is this the case? If a definite course of action exists within an organization to guide and support decisions and challenges, why don’t people make use of the guidance provided them to support their decision-making and problem-solving? In our experience at BeST, there are many answers to this question.

A brief review on the comparative analytical functions of the BeST system will shed light on the importance of exploring discrepancies between organizational policy and practice.

Comparative Analytic 1: The Interaction Map

Comparing the Expected Interaction Map to the Real Interaction Map shows us discrepancies in organizations perceived/assumed interactions by players (messages/chats sent and received) compared to actual/practical interactions.

The graphs below reflect how a high-level manager of an organization believed his employees would interact during a specific scenario (left) compared to how his employees actually interacted during the scenario (right):

Expected Intensity Map                                                                                       Real Intensity Map

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According to the policy, the mayor should have been at the center of interactions, sending correspondence out to other players (as per the graph on the left). In practice, the mayor sat on the periphery of interactions, mostly receiving correspondence from others. In this scenario, the transportation sector and the media (“CNN”) were central players in the interactions (as per the graph on the right).

Comparative Analytic 2: The Intensity Map

Comparing the Expected Intensity Map to the Real Intensity Map shows us discrepancies in organizations perceived/assumed decision-making and action-taking by players compared to actual/practical decision-making and action taking.

 

The following chart depicts the level of actions the same manager assumed his employees would take in ten-minute intervals during the same scenario (The Expected Interaction Map)

 2

 

The chart below depicts the actual level of actions the employees took in ten-minute intervals in the same scenario (The Real Interaction Map):

 3

According to the policy, no one player was responsible for making more than a few actions per ten-minute interval (as per the chart on the left). In practice, some players performed up to 22 actions in the ten-minute interval (as per the chart on the right).

 

 

 

Comparative Analytic 3: The Heat Map

Comparing the Expected Heat Map to the Real Heat Map shows us discrepancies in organizations perceived/assumed decisions over specified time periods by players compared to actual/practical actions and decisions by players. Like the Expected Interaction Map, this analytic reveals the amount of pressure put on each player over time.

The following chart depicts the number of decisions the manager assumed each employee would take in ten-minute intervals in the same scenario (The Expected Heat Map):

 4

 

 The chart below depicts the actual number of decisions the employees took in ten-minute intervals in the same scenario (The Real Heat Map):

5 

According to the policy, no one player was supposed to make more than a handful of decisions per ten-minute interval. In practice, every player made more than ten decisions in various ten-minute intervals.

 

Organizational practices quite often deviate from organizational policies. The BeST system allows organizations to see why their practices differ from their policies; organizations are able to understand the root causes of certain behaviors and trends and their influence on employee performance and overall operations.

Understanding the root causes of human behavior in the context of an organizations’ decision-making and operational processes sheds valuable light on the efficacy of organizations’ policies, practices and ethos.

 

Whether your organization is experiencing differences in policy and practice as a result of ineffective policies or de-facto practices, or because of misunderstandings relating to policy implementation or operational trends- in order for organizations to begin to improve performance and profit, they must first look inward before looking outward.

 

Call us to learn how BeST can help improve your organization’s performance, profit-generation and readiness for crisis.

 

 

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