Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Codifying a crisis: Progressing from information sharing to distributed decision‐making

Abstract A key challenge in crisis management is maintaining an adequate information position to support coherent decision‐making between a range of actors. Such distributed decision‐making is often supported by a common operational picture that not only conveys factual information but also attempts to codify a dynamic and vibrant crisis management process. In this paper, we explain why it is so difficult to move from information sharing towards support for distributed decision‐making. We argue that two key processes need to be considered: supporting both the translation of meaning and the transformation of interests between those on the front line and those in the remote response network. Our analysis compares the information‐sharing processes in three large‐scale emergency response operations in the Netherlands. Results indicate that on several occasions the collaborative decision‐making process was hampered because actors limited themselves to factual information exchange. The decision‐making process only succeeds when actors take steps to resolve their varying interpretations and interests. This insight offers important lessons for improving information management doctrines and for supporting distributed decision‐making processes.

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