‘Avoiding Catastrophe’ is the overarching concept behind all management decision making that takes place in the face of adversity. It concerns itself with problems, setbacks, difficulties, failures, accidents, and errors, seeking to minimise their impact and prevent catastrophic outcomes in the shape of irreversible damage to an organisation, its capabilities, functioning, even its existence.
This is not the normal focus of management thinking. Managers, leaders, entrepreneurs, commanders, usually concentrate their energies on achieving success, goals, objectives, tasks, the mission. They ask the question, ‘how do we get to where we want to be ?’. This is understandable, it reflects a determination to succeed, a desire to prevail, a ‘can do’ attitude without which nothing is ever accomplished.
Here on the other hand, we ask a different question, ‘how can this go horribly wrong ?’. We do so because in any human enterprise, failure IS an option, one which is ever present, and the
possibility that things can turn out
disastrously is a factor that needs to be built into any strategy for success. In reality, plans, activities, operations, are always in danger of spinning out of control, and often do. This is simply a fact of life.
Effective management decision making has to reflect both sides of this reality, a ‘can do’ mentality that believes success is achievable, and an awareness that the organisation may already be on a path to destruction. Alongside indicators of success, managers need to know where to find warnings of imminent failure, in time to take corrective action, and what such action should look like if it is to prevent the position degenerating further. This requires a particular skill set, knowledge base, and a specific kind of leadership style.
‘Avoiding Catastrophe’ sets out to explore and uncover how to ‘cope with the bad stuff’, to design and build resilience into an organisation, develop its ability to minimise the impact of harmful events,
prevent their escalation into crises, and recover from adversity. As such its scope spans a series of existing and emerging disciplines, including -
risk management in real time
the prediction and prevention of catastrophic events
intelligence and information management
capability development and organisational resilience
team functioning in high pressure environments
decision making in dynamic and complex situations
leadership, command and control
There are three main kinds of audience that 'Avoiding Catastrophe' addresses -
corporate leaders and specialists in risk, crisis, and incident management
emergency service professionals
military commanders and advisers
For each of these, 'Avoiding Catastrophe' has developed a series of programs and initiatives, products and tools, case studies and training packages. These will be rolled out on this website over the next few weeks and months. They include the High Consequence Decision Making (HCD) Program first designed for use by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and T3 Tactical Team Training, both grounded in the research covered by Dirk Maclean's book, 'Shoot, Don't Shoot', published in 2017 by the RAAF's Air Power Development Centre. A soft copy of this book is available for free download from the APDC's website.