, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 79-93
Date: 09 Aug 2011

A case study of factor influencing role improvisation in crisis response teams

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Common characteristics of crisis situations are ambiguous and unplanned for events. The need for improvised roles can therefore be an imperative factor for the success of an operation. The aim of this study is to deepen the understanding of the processes taking place during improvised work “as it happens”. A case study of a crisis management team at work is presented and provides an in-depth analysis of the information and communication flow of persons acting in improvised roles, including contextual factors influencing the task at hand. The analysis suggests that three main factors lay behind decreased performance by the team when some of its members were forced to take on roles for which they lacked professional training; lack of language skills, lack of domain knowledge and insufficient organizational structure of the tasks. Based on the observations from this case study, we suggest three ways of improving a team’s performance and hence resilience when forced to improvise due to lack of personnel in one or more required competence areas. These are training to take on the responsibility for tasks or roles outside ones professional area of specialization, developing formal routines for changes in roles and tasks and developing and using tools and routines for information sharing.