Using Naturalistic Decision Making to Understand Knowledge Barriers in Launching Telecommunication for Public Safety
Paper in proceedings, 2011
Based on an empirical study of the launch of an information and communication technology [ICT] system for the main Public Safety Agencies [PSA] in Sweden, this paper combines concepts from knowledge management [KM] with naturalistic decision-making [NDM] to gain a greater understanding of problems in the implementation and adoption phase of the new system. The launch has been experienced as being much slower than was originally envisaged by all the organizations involved and the system will not cover its own costs in the near future. Implementation and adoption also required extra, unplanned, resources to develop processes for collaboration and joint work by and between the organizations. In the public safety and emergency response sector, the need for communication and co-operation between the organizations involved is regarded mostly as self-evident by both the organizations involved and external organizations. To make co-operation within and between the different organizations more efficient, a new radio communication system is being introduced in Sweden. Adoption and use are presented as being the prerogative of the user organizations. In an earlier paper we identified several problems, i.e. 'knowledge barriers' that prevented or slowed down adoption and thus the launch process (Sunesson and Heldal, 2010). This paper takes a further step to gain a deeper understanding of what these knowledge barriers mean by using terms from knowledge management [KM] combined with concepts and frameworks from NDM. NDM provides a promising framework to understand these situations, since the situation in which the system will be used can be related to understanding technologies in complex environments, i.e. solving ill-defined problems under time pressure and with high stakes combined with uncertain outcomes. By analysing a set of five categories of knowledge barriers through concepts from the NDM framework, such as 'sensemaking', 'situation awareness', and 'mental models', this paper strives to increase understanding of the obstacles that need to be overcome when launching large-scale ICT systems for parties with specific needs and requirements. The main benefit of using knowledge management models is to provide a good overview of the launch process, emphasizing relevant problem areas. The advantage of examining these problem areas more deeply by means of concepts and frameworks from NDM can be found in the possibility of acquiring a deeper understanding and providing suggestions to overcome the identified problems for users, launchers and influencers. This paper makes both practical and theoretical contributions. Practical contributions exemplify how important mutual understanding is to co-operation and in doing so a more coherent mental model on which to build co-operation. The theoretical contribution takes the form of suggestions to improve our understanding of the benefits of combining KM models with frameworks and concepts from NDM.