[Last amended: 18 May 16]
Part 1 - Balance of Planning within Bricolage
In the first part of this research I am looking to develop a method that enables managers to balance planning and bricolage more effectively. Within the operating envelope where the plan is seen to be robust means that the plan or rule is working as designed.
This debate has not progressed so well and planned meetings have had to be cancelled for reasons those involved know. This has given me time to think through the issues in more detail. Ideally I see the work is in two parts. The first is a desk study and the second is a field study.
For the desk study, if we accept that planning and rule sets are reliant on preconditions, the first step is to determine the likelihood of whether the required preconditions will be met. To achieve this, two factors need to be examined. These are:
The precondition needed to meet the assumptions.
Possible variations in the operating environment.
A research assumption based on previous experience is that it is rare for the precondition implicit in a plan or rule set to be articulated. [This assumption needs to be validated.]
Whether or not this assumption is true, the first task of any case study is to define the preconditions implicit or explicit in the plan or rule set being studied. The assumed variance in the preconditions also needs to be defined. As part of this work each action needs to be examined to determine why the action is required and whether the prescribed way is the easiest way of achieving the result desired. The reason this step is necessary is that other research has shown that if these two conditions do not apply then there is an increased likelihood that those required to enact the plan or rule-set will not do so in the prescribed manner. If this happens then the planning effort has already failed.
The next task will be to determine the actual stability of the working environment. This requires :
The key factors critical to success to be determined.
The range of variance within the factors need to be determined. This variance needs to be categorised as those that "are almost certain to occur", the variance considered "normal by the planning process" and variance considered "too unlikely for planning purposes".
The final stage of the desk study is to compare whether the preconditions assumed within the plan or rule-set match the variance determined by this work. The result of this work would categorise response to the environment in terms of needing robustness, resilience or agility. I have started to group these under the overarching term of "elasticity".
The aim of the field study will be to compare the working assumptions about the variance to be found in the working environment and the actual working environment within which the workforce has to enact the plan or rule-set. The results of the field study would look to determine the frequency that the workforce which has to enact the plan or rule-set needs to resort to resilience or agility to achieve the results required. This will demonstrate the point at which the preparation of the plan or rule-set goes past the point of diminishing returns.
I am looking for a methodology that enables us to examine the elasticity within a system. Taking cases provided by Bernard Groot has let me work with some real data. From his work I have extracted the single instance of failure of the radio communications system; this will suffice at present. The failures were described as "congestion" of the net, compounded by "unauthorised" and "unprofessional" use. What we therefore need to look at is the designed usage pattern and at what point will it become overloaded, who is authorised to use the system (especially those who might be referred to a "fringe users") and how the unauthorised use crept into the system and finally, what procedures are acceptable, which are unacceptable and why.
There have been a number of academic studies that have looked at what have been labelled "fantasy documents". These are plans that look acceptable on paper but will never work in practice. I would divide fantasy documents into three subcategories based on a division already familiar to those involved in crisis or emergency planning. This looks at a scale of escalating activity during a crisis. It divides activities into those that are routine, those that are high tempo and those that are designed to manage when in crisis. Here the key issue is how, within the plan as written, did the system designers see the feature that failed to escalate from routine activity, through high-tempo and then to crisis management. The point is to examine the system when it is given a brutal audit (that is faced real life events) to see whether the plans works or define at what point the system failed; at what point the elastic broke.
This thought pattern has led to a possible methodological framework for analysing the issue of elasticity. The framework is made of the following parts:
Subject failure issue - This indicates the general area of failure.
Description of failure - This provides a label for the particular failure or issue to be examined.
Central question(s) - This provides an indication of the type of questions that any examination of this issue might address.
What were the plans for routine activity? - This should examine what routine activity is expected to look like and how it is expected to be delivered.
What were the plans for high tempo activity? - This should examine what high tempo activity is expected to look like and how it is expected to be delivered. It also needs to examine how routine activity is expected to escalate to high tempo activity.
What were the plans for crisis activity? - This should examine what crisis activity is expected to look like and how it is expected to be delivered. It also needs to examine how high tempo activity is expected to escalate to crisis activity.
At what point did the activity cause the system to fail and why? - This should describe the point at which the system failed and should seek to explain the mechanism of failure (why it happens).
What is the gap between what was planned and the circumstances encountered? - This should provide a description of the gap between what was expected and planned for, and what actually happened.
How much wider may the gap become? - This should look at how much more variation there may be within the environment compared to what the plan was designed to handle.
In table form this may look like: