Situational Awareness

Mapping a battle-tested blueprint
for better decision making

Situation awareness in not new, it has been part of the military’s lexicon for over 200 years. Having the appropriate level of situational awareness is critical for senior decision makers. A lack of it can be devastating – just ask General Motors, which took a $1.5 billion charge for recalls associated with a 2014 faulty ignition switch that it had known about for over a decade.

Understanding the environment you operate in is essential to making good, sound business decisions. A decision maker must always know context (what is happening), circumstance (what has happened) and consequence (what could happen) at all times. To be successful, you must understand and interpret all three of these inputs and allocate resources accordingly to take advantage of future opportunities and to mitigate potential threats. Sadly, most organizations have poor situational awareness. They either don’t take all “Three Cs” into account when planning or acting or wrongly identify key inputs.

Understanding the environment you operate in is essential to making good, sound business decisions. Three simple activities can help raise your organization’s situational awareness so that you make better, faster, smarter decisions.

So how does one raise the situational awareness of individuals or organizations so better, faster, smarter decisions are made?

First, it is important to recognize that situational awareness cuts across a time continuum. It isn't just about being aware of 'now' – it's about what the current situation means and what can be extrapolated from past events and the present into the future, and using that to drive a decision or decisions to manage threats and/or exploit opportunities.

Three simple activities can raise your organization’s situational awareness:

  • Open the aperture. We live in an era of data overload. The volume and variety of data, coupled with the velocity it can be accessed and searched, put incredible amounts of data at our fingertips. Yet vast pockets of valuable information go untapped – social media, audio, video and photos. Organizations should develop strategies that move beyond just tapping into traditional structured data (such as easily searchable databases) and harness the power of unstructured data such as multimedia content. Experts estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the data in any organization is unstructured. And the amount of unstructured data in enterprises is growing significantly - often many times faster than structured databases are growing.
  • Share, share, share. The old adage ”The sum is greater than the parts” is nowhere more applicable than in the business world. Yet breaking down organizational barriers and sharing information seems to be a recurring problem for most organizations. Lessons learned often times become simply lessons heard because they are presented when individuals cannot leverage the insights to drive smarter decision making. The key is to share information readily so it is available on-demand and develop processes and procedures so that sharing becomes part of the DNA of an organization. In turn, accessing the insights when they are needed, as opposed to when they are presented, becomes a driver for improved decision making.
  • Embrace technology. The role that technology can play in improving situational awareness cannot be overstated. As information is collected, converted into intelligence and then disseminated to key consumers, each of these steps can be optimized (in terms of quality and speed) through the efficient use of technology. For example, information can be more effectively downloaded by developing smart connectors between external content sources and your organization’s internal data repositories. Analytic capabilities are improved by text analysis and pattern recognition software. Finally, enterprise business intelligence tools, such as SharePoint, allow organizations to smartly push information to the right people.

Like chess, improving situational awareness is a simple concept to understand, but difficult to master. However, if you follow the simple activities outlined above your organization will be well on its way to making more timely and better decisions.


Learn more. Reach out to Scott Leeb.

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