Column: Situational Awareness at an Organizational Level
The concept of situational awareness is not a new one. It is often talked about in management circles and is extensively covered in occupational health and safety literature, especially in relation to an individual’s ability to understand the work environment elements in a particular time frame, evaluate a range of factors, and use the acquired knowledge to predict their status in the future. It is a deep, conscious awareness in “now,” the present moment.
Situational awareness can simply be seen as a past, present, and future state with associated internal questions such as:
- Where was I, and what happened before?
- Where am I, and what is happening around me?
- And where am I going, and what can credibly happen?
There are a range of factors associated with situational awareness such as attention, ability to recognize and retrieve patterns, workload, mental models, and working memory. In fact, situational awareness is mostly about human ability to adequately focus and resist tunnel vision and the capacity to self-reflect. When situational awareness works, we are aware that we are being aware. This is where individuals need to be to achieve safe execution of work and a local workplace balance between production and protection.
Can the same principle be applied to an organization as a whole? Does an organization need to be situationally aware? It makes sense that it does, especially in relation to management of business risks in all functions, and at all levels.