It seems a little difficult to outline situational awareness due to it being a very individual thing. No two individuals will maintain the same awareness of a given situation. All to often books on business management and leadership will suggest that you maintain good situational awareness if there is to be a common and effective outcome. It’s easy to say, but to actually put this concept into practice takes considerable concentration and focus. which notably can sometimes can be very difficult to achieve.
This is the point where we start talking about the process or pathway to establishing good or even great awareness. This pathway is recognising exactly what situational awareness is and the depth of importance required for a specific task. I say pathway because that is what the process includes. If you get to the end of a task and then consider your awareness during the activity, then it’s too late. Attention and focus at critical times during the entire process.
Helping to achieve effective results:
I should make a disclaimer here – I am by no means an expert in situational awareness. Firstly, there are a few things that I would call important in helping achieve an effective result. There is one group on this earth that, I believe, have a great ability to remain focused and on task. Namely the US Navy Seals. Their skills in such a complex situation can often mean the difference between life and death. Most of us will never be in this situation, but can you imagine the power if you develop your skills to a similar level.
Such awareness seems to be a required ability for most special forces operators. The Seals have proven they know what it’s all about. Organisations like the Military, Police and other emergency services conduct psychological testing on their potential recruits. Often resulting in eliminating people with an inability to plan and focus. Emergency services, for example, are especially focused on setting objectives and strategies which creates a pathway to successful outcomes. They practice such thing daily and are even assessed on their ability to set them rapidly and effectively.
Front Sight focus & Situational-Awareness:
When you see well-trained Police and another military/paramilitary organisations moving in on a hostage or similar situation. They seem to move their eyes in the direction that the barrel of the firearm is pointing, this is called front sight focus. This allows them to focus on one thing at a time, thus achieve a successful result and moving onto the next.
Imagine if they just sprayed bullets everywhere, it could cause them to shoot innocent people or their own colleagues. Also if they don’t follow a defined plan, and achieve great operational situational awareness. Then two operators are likely to be shooting at the same target. Allowing bad guys time to shoot back, which is not ideal and may be life-threatening.
It may look like they are taking out many targets at a time. Elite training allows them to do it that fast that the offender/s wouldn’t know what hit them. Could you imagine if there were multiple targets and they were trying to deal with them all at once? It’s not going to happen without could awareness and front sight focus.
Confusion is the result of poor operational situational awareness and its the same for business. If you don’t have a good understanding of what is going on within your business then things can be missed. Allowing for mistakes and potentially catastrophic failure, which no business can afford. This doesn’t mean you have to micromanage everything. Just having good knowledge of the detail will allow you to find solutions for problems with, seemingly, no solutions.
Don’t Miss the warning signs:
Relating this back to a business environment, we could see some great opportunities lost or even miss warning signs of imminent failure. I spoke about the span of control in another post and this is important here. If we have to focus on too many things it is also likely that we may miss those critical factors.
When its time to delegate ‘do it’, one person can’t do everything and to maintain great situational awareness make sure your focus is at a ratio that you can handle. If your a Navy Seal or have a photographic memory your span of control ratio may be 1:10 (legend) for the rest of us it’s far less. The fire services use a ratio of 1:5.
They have found that generally as an emergency escalates that leaders will make far better decisions if their span of control is kept at a ratio of 1:5. Anything above 1:7 is doomed to fail and during emergencies, this can be catastrophic.
Effectively focusing on the priorities, often competing for priorities. May mean reading things over and over or training every day for hours. Whatever you do, one thing is certain – maintaining good situation awareness requires effective focus, concentration and a total understanding of what you are doing.
Its a fact that people who have had the right and appropriate experience, training and education will have a better ability to maintain awareness. I.e. understanding that invoice that just past your desk or how that employee did a great job of carrying out a given task. Knowledge understanding and the other things I have mentioned above are the keys to success. Practice Practice Practice and nothing will get past you!!!!!!!!!
Just a last word. There are some things that can help with mental development. They are often thought of as a bit ‘out there’, but I believe in 20 years or so they will be the norm.
What I am talking about is mediation and disciplines like yoga. Even if it is just to calm your mind and stop it racing from one thought to another – it can’t hurt. Later on down the track of blog articles I will concentrate on this further and promote discussion. For those that may have an interest, or are actively participating in these activities.
In conclusion, there is a number of organisations that promote great situational awareness. While striving to have individuals that can grasp such concepts. In those organisation, it is far more likely that individuals will make fewer mistakes and have great personal and organisational success.