Old dogs, new tricks? A Norwegian study on whether previous collaboration exercise experience impacted participant’s perceived exercise effect

Jarle Lowe Sorensen (USN School of Business, University of South-Eastern Norway, Vestfold, Norway)
Eric D. Carlström (USN School of Business, University of South-Eastern Norway, Vestfold, Norway) (Institute of Health and Care Sciences, Sahlgrenska Akademin, Goteborgs universitet, Goteborg, Sweden)
Leif Inge Magnussen (USN School of Business, University of South-Eastern Norway, Vestfold, Norway)
Tae-eun Kim (Faculty of Technology, Natural Sciences and Maritime Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway, Vestfold, Norway)
Atle Martin Christiansen (Faculty of Technology, Natural Sciences and Maritime Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway, Vestfold, Norway)
Glenn-Egil Torgersen (USN School of Business, University of South-Eastern Norway, Vestfold, Norway) (The Norwegian Defence University College, Oslo, Norway)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 28 November 2018

Issue publication date: 22 July 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the perceived effects of a maritime cross-sector collaboration exercise. More specifically, this study aims to examine whether past exercise experience had an impact on the operative exercise participant’s perceived levels of collaboration, learning and usefulness.

Design/methodology/approach

This was a non-experimental quantitative survey-based study. A quantitative methodology was chosen over qualitative or mixed-methods methodologies as it was considered more suitable for data extraction from larger population groups, and allowed for the measurement and testing of variables using statistical methods and procedures (McCusker and Gunaydin, 2015). Data were collected from a two-day 2017 Norwegian full-scale maritime chemical oil-spill pollution exercise with partners from Norway, Germany, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden. The exercise included international public emergency response organizations and Norwegian non-governmental organizations. The study was approved by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (ref. 44815) and the exercise planning organization. Data were collected using the collaboration, learning and utility (CLU) scale, which is a validated instrument designed to measure exercise participant’s perceived levels of collaboration, learning and usefulness (Berlin and Carlström, 2015).

Findings

The perceived focus on collaboration, learning and usefulness changed with the number of previous exercises attended. All CLU dimensions experienced decreases and increases, but while perceived levels of collaboration and utility reached their somewhat modest peaks among those with the most exercise experience, perceived learning was at its highest among those with none or little exercise experience, and at its lowest among those with most. These findings indicated that collaboration exercises in their current form have too little focus on collaborative learning.

Research limitations/implications

Several limitations of the current study deserve to be mentioned. First, this study was limited in scope as data were collected from a limited number of participants belonging to only one organization and during one exercise. Second, demographical variables such as age and gender were not taken into consideration. Third, limitation in performing a face-to-face data collection may have resulted in missing capturing of cues, verbal and non-verbal signs, which could have resulted in a more accurate screening. Moreover, the measurements were based on the predefined CLU-items, which left room for individual interpretation and, in turn, may cause somewhat lower term validity. As the number of international and national studies on exercise effects is scarce, it is important to increase further knowledge and to learn more about the causes as to why the perceived effects of collaboration exercises are considered somewhat limited.

Practical implications

Exercise designers may be stimulated to have a stronger emphasis on collaborative learning during exercise planning, hence continuously work to develop scripts and scenarios in a way that leads to continuous participant perceived learning and utility.

Social implications

Collaboration is established as a Norwegian national emergency preparedness principle. These findings may stimulate politicians and top crisis managers to develop national collaboration exercise script guidelines that emphasize collaborative learning and development.

Originality/value

This study shows how exercise experience impacted participant’s perceived levels of collaboration, learning and usefulness. Findings indicated that collaboration exercises in their current form have too little focus on collaborative learning.

Keywords

Citation

Sorensen, J.L., Carlström, E.D., Magnussen, L.I., Kim, T.-e., Christiansen, A.M. and Torgersen, G.-E. (2019), "Old dogs, new tricks? A Norwegian study on whether previous collaboration exercise experience impacted participant’s perceived exercise effect", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 122-133. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-04-2018-0025

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

The three Scandinavian countries – Denmark, Norway and Sweden – share the three emergency preparedness principles: responsibility, equality and proximity (Danish Emergency Management Agency, 2018; Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, 2018; Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, 2018). Additionally, Norway introduced collaboration as a fourth official principle following the 2011 terrorist attacks on Oslo and Utøya. According to the White Paper that introduced this new principle, collaborations shall be strengthened and developed through an emphasis on collaboration exercises (Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, 2012). In crisis management literature, the existing assumption is that an increased focus on collaboration exercises develops and enhances preparedness efforts, team integration and response (Rutty and Rutty, 2012). Being a maritime nation, it is important for Norway to have an effective maritime crisis framework that focuses on collaboration, as maritime crisis often requires national and international joint efforts due to, among others, longer distances at sea compared to on-land. Throughout history, there have been several major maritime incidents and crisis that both have resulted in loss of lives and environmental harm. Examples being the 1990 arson fire onboard the passenger ferry Scandinavian Star (Norwegian Official Report, 1991) and the 2011 grounding of the vessel M/S Godafoss with subsequent oil spill (Accident Investigation Board Norway). According to the investigation reports, cross-sector collaboration efforts during the response efforts were not considered optimal. Despite introducing collaboration as an official legislative principle in 2012 and increasing the focus on collaboration exercises, recent research on Norwegian maritime collaboration exercises indicates that collaboration exercises tend to produce somewhat limited perceived levels of collaboration, learning and usefulness (Kristiansen et al., 2017; Magnussen et al., 2018; Sorensen, 2017; Sorensen et al., 2018). As the number of international and national studies on exercise effects is scarce, it is important to increase further knowledge and to learn more about the causes as to why the perceived effects of collaboration exercises are considered somewhat limited. The purpose of this case study was therefore to investigate the perceived effects of a maritime cross-sector collaboration exercise. More specifically, this study aimed to examine whether past exercise experience had an impact on the operative exercise participant’s perceived levels of collaboration, learning and usefulness. This study is a theoretical contribution to the fields of Crisis Management and collaboration research. The findings are relevant to policymakers and may possibly help exercise designers to focus on further collaborative learning and usefulness development.

Background

In a crisis management line of thinking, ideal cross-sector crisis collaboration is a horizontal process where stakeholders voluntarily and prestige-less join forces to solve a joint problem (Murphy et al., 2015). A horizontal state requires an agreed sharing of purpose, power and distribution of available resources (Berlin and Carlström, 2009). Being able to collaborate across sectors in crisis is a key to success (Brattberg, 2012). However, cross-sector collaboration does not occur just by having multiple stakeholders showing up at the same accident site. Collaboration must be learned, exercised and developed over time (Berlin and Carlström, 2015). In comparison to drills which are generally designed to improve specific procedure undertaking and equipment handling and test the functioning of the response organization (Lakey et al., 1983), the goal of collaboration exercises is to improve team-integration and to strengthen interprofessional collaboration between both organizations and individuals (Rutty and Rutty, 2012). Berlin and Carlström (2015) suggested that for collaboration, learning and usefulness to develop over time, exercises must be considered as tools rather than permanent solutions. Exercises must also and continuously provide clear collaborative instructions at all levels, encourage avoidance of unnecessary waiting, and facilitate cross-sector trust and swift trust development (Curnin et al., 2015) through the learning of participating organization’s organizational structure, activity-goals and communication patterns.

Studies on the effects of cross-sector collaboration exercises are as mentioned limited, but there are some notable exceptions; Perry (2004) found that attending collaboration exercises contributed to increased knowledge of other participating stakeholder’s professional challenges, organizational structure and thinking. Berlin and Carlström (2015), in a Swedish study, confirmed Perry’s findings, but also pointed to the importance of continuously focusing on the development of collaborative learning and utility. Recent Norwegian studies (Kristiansen et al., 2017; Magnussen et al., 2018; Sorensen, 2017; Sorensen et al., 2018) indicated similar findings by concluding that the perceived levels of learning and usefulness among the participants were limited. The conclusions also in line with the earlier research from Berlin and Carlstrom (2011), who found that collaboration during exercises is characterized by sequential (Axelsson, 2000) and parallel working patterns (Weick, 1996). Here, stakeholders prefer working in turn as in an assembly line approach (sequential) or next to each other (parallel), where they focus on performing sector-specific tasks rather than in synchronous collaboration, which focuses on joint problems-solving and flexibility (Savage, 1996).

The overall goal of crisis collaboration exercises is to contribute to learning which again leads to a utility in real crisis situations (Berlin and Carlström, 2009). The objective of learning is to attain new knowledge (Sommer and Njå, 2012). The collaborative learning concept is, in this study, based on Stein’s (1997) first- and second-order learning models, which roots back to Klabbers’s (1999), Argyris’s and Argyris and Schon (1978) learning models. First-order learning is when a participant – during a collaboration exercise – gains new knowledge and applies to solve the exercise scenario, but does not wish, or has the capability, to see how that knowledge can be transferred later into practical utility. In contrast, second-order learning occurs when a participant uses newly acquired exercise knowledge and manages to put it into practical use, as part of a desire to improve and strengthen real emergency and crisis response. For collaborative learning to be present, the exercise model must have a clearly defined focus, hence focusing on collaboration development rather skill practicing training development (Borell and Eriksson, 2013). Further, it is important that the exercise is limited in scope, so that the participants can always have an overview over and the surplus to engage in the ongoing scenario (Andersson et al., 2013). Kim (2014) argued that “the bigger, the better” focus often dominates exercise planning. While an impressive sight, the approach often got in the way of exercise usefulness, as exercise designers, due to the lack of standardized exercise frameworks, tend to over-exaggerate the complexity and scope during the planning phase. Through a lowering of the complexity level and gradual focus on collaborative learning over time, Kim (2014) argued that exercise designers may increase the participant’s perceived levels of usefulness as the participants get more accustomed to improvising and try out new strategies across sectors.

Torgersen (2018) argued that own perception and the self-assessment of learning content and dividends related to relational processes during crisis exercises may be different from where the conditions are regarded predictable. When it comes to the metacognitive assessment of own learning, both the experience of previous exercises, current work assignments, the intent of the exercise and clarification of learning elements during the exercise will influence the assessment result (and self-esteem). Operators who are part of an exercise will focus on different learning elements, depending on the tasks that are being performed and challenges to be tackled. Thus, managers and employees in different positions during the exercise may also contribute to the different metacognitive identification of learning content related to subprocesses during collaboration. By obtaining an organic focus (Burns and Stalker, 1961) with a focus on transparency, flexibility and creativity, the exercise designers may over time counteract the often-present dominance of mechanistic behavior, which may lead to unnecessary path dependency (Selznick, 1957), impression management (Schlenker, 2012) and self-reinforcing behavior (Boin et al., 2005).

Method

This was a non-experimental quantitative survey based study. A quantitative methodology was chosen over qualitative or mixed-methods methodologies as it was considered more suitable for data extraction from larger population groups, and allowed for the measurement and testing of variables using statistical methods and procedures (McCusker and Gunaydin, 2015). Data were collected from a two-day 2017 Norwegian full-scale maritime chemical oil-spill pollution exercise with partners from Norway, Germany, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden. The exercise included international public emergency response organizations and Norwegian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The study was approved by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (ref. 44815) and the exercise planning organization. Data were collected using the collaboration, learning and utility (CLU) scale, which is a validated instrument designed to measure exercise participant’s perceived levels of collaboration, learning and usefulness (Berlin and Carlström, 2015). The CLU scale is divided into, and asks questions related to the three CLU dimensions (Table I). The Likert scale includes the following coding: 1=strongly disagree, 2=mildly disagree, 3=neutral, 4=mildly agree and 5=strongly agree. A sixth option was also provided in this survey, i.e. do not wish to respond. The survey was designed in the QuestBack software, and electronically distributed through a hyperlink to the participants by the exercise planning organization. The invitation to participate in the survey emphasized both volunteerism and guaranteed anonymity. The participants were not asked to provide name, contact information, nor professional title. To further ensure privacy, the “hide identity” option was selected in QuestBack, which according to the QuestBack (2018) Security Statement ensures that participant’s IP address, e-mail addresses, or browser type cannot be identified. After collection, data were imported and analyzed in Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences version 24.0.

The population sampled in this study were solely Norwegian exercise operative staff belonging to the exercise designer organization. International participants, exercise directing staff (Distaff) members and others who hold strategic management or planning positions were excluded. Operative staff members were chosen to ensure group homogeneity and avoid sample skewness, as the initial analysis showed that half of the respondents belonged to the Norwegian exercise planning organization. In addition to answering questions related to perceived levels of collaboration, learning, usefulness, the participants were also asked to provide predefined grouped demographical information about their age, gender, number of previous collaboration exercises attended, and years of professional experience. To map whether the number of crisis collaboration exercises attended will have an impact on participant’s perceived levels of collaboration, learning and usefulness, the mean CLU scores were first calculated, then indexed. The indexed mean results were then paired with the number of stated crisis collaboration exercises the participants had attended prior to this one. The response alternatives regarding the number of exercises attended were grouped as follows: 1 (0–1), 2 (2–4), 3 (5–7), 4 (8–10) and 5 (11+). The intervals in the number 1 group differed from the rest of the response alternatives. This structure was chosen to address issues related to organization experience and learning outcomes. First, collaboration exercises of this magnitude, with international participation, are relatively rare. However, regional and national collaboration exercises are more common and often legally required (cf. the collaboration principle). Therefore, participants with more than one year of organizational experience should have attended more than one exercise and hence gained some collaboration exercise experience. If a participant has attended none or just one prior exercise, it suggests that the person has limited operative experience, and thus may have different expectations related to own learning and utility outcomes than a more experienced co-worker. The grouping related to the number of exercises attended has therefore in this study been linked to perceived learning outcomes. Compared to drills, cross-sector collaboration is something that should be learned and developed over time (Berlin and Carlström, 2015). Hence, the results should, already from the first exercise, display a continuous increase in learning and utility outcomes based on the continuous mastering and development of learning activities (Jenkins and Unwin, 1996). As previous studies on the effects of collaboration exercises (e.g. Berlin and Carlström, 2015; Magnussen et al., 2018; Sørensen, 2017; Sørensen et al., 2018) have indicated, exercises have limited perceived levels of learning and utility. It would, therefore, be interesting to see whether this perception develops after only one compared to two or multiple exercises.

A G*Power 3.13 analysis (Faul et al., 2009) with a standardized statistical power of 0.80 and medium effect size of 0.3 premeditated the appropriate sample size to 82 participants. The α significance level was 0.05 (Cohen, 1988).

Limitations

Several limitations of the current study deserved to be mentioned. First, this study was limited in scope as data were collected from a limited number of participants belonging to only one organization and during one exercise. Second, as the study was limited to perceived levels of CLU only, demographical variables such as age and gender were not taken into consideration. Third, limitation in performing a face-to-face data collection may have resulted in missing capturing of cues, verbal and non-verbal signs, which could have resulted in a more accurate screening. Moreover, the measurements were based on the predefined CLU-items, which left room for individual interpretation and, in turn, may cause somewhat lower term validity.

Results

A total of 45 out of 103 invited persons agreed to participate in the study, within which 28 are males and 17 are females. The overall response rate was 44 percent. All participants responded to all questions. A post-hoc G*Power analyses calculated the power to 0.54 which was lower than the wanted 82, but still within the desired medium effect size range (Cohen, 1988). The statistical results are presented in Table I. The participant’s age ranged from the 25–34-year group to 55+ year group (M=3.93, standard deviation (SD)=0.96), with most respondents belonging to the 55+ group (35.6 percent). The years of professional experience ranged from the 0–5 to the 21+ year group (M=3.40, SD=1.42) with a majority belonging to the 21+ year group (33.3 percent), followed by the 6–10 and 11–15-year groups (both 20.0 percent). The number of collaboration exercises attended prior to this one was distributed among the sample population (M=3.02, SD=1.48), and dispersed as follows: 0–1 (22.2 percent), 2–4 (15.6 percent), 5–7 (24.4 percent), 8–10 (13.3 percent) and 11+ (24.4 percent).

The mean perceived collaboration value for the 0–1 number of exercises group was 4.02 (SD=0.57, Δ=0.00). The 2–4 group had a mean of 3.75 (SD=0.53, Δ=−6.71), while the 5–7 group displayed a total mean of 3.53 (SD=0.73, Δ=−5.86). Of those who had participated in 8-10 collaboration exercises prior to this one, the calculated mean was 4.0 (SD=0.67, Δ=+13.31), while the final group, which members had attended 11+ exercises, the calculated mean (M) was 4.13 with a SD of 0.57 (Δ=+3.24). When it came to perceived learning, the 0–1 group displayed a mean of 4.45 (SD=0.56, Δ=0.00) and the 2–4 group, a mean of 3.08 (SD=1.23, Δ=−30.78). The 5–7 group had a calculated mean of 3.41 (SD=1.20, Δ=+10.71), while the 8–10 exercises group displayed a mean of 3.73 (SD=0.73, Δ=+9.38). Of those who had attended 11+ previous collaboration exercises, the mean perceived learning was 3.05 (SD=0.98, Δ=−18.23). An examination of the mean utility values showed that the 0–1 group came out with an overall mean of 3.27 (SD=0.49, Δ=0.00). Those representing the 2–4 group displayed a mean of 3.53 (SD=0.52, Δ=+7.95), and the 5–7 group, a mean of 3.13 (SD=0.62, Δ=−11.33). A mean of 3.54 (SD =0.18, Δ=+13.09) was calculated for the 8–10 group, while the 11+ group had a mean of 3.61 (SD=0.86, Δ=+1.97) (Table II and Figure 1).

Discussion

The findings showed that those with the least exercise experience (0–1 previous exercises) perceived the studied exercise to have a mildly strong focus on collaborative learning elements. This might be due to the members in this group either being newly qualified in their fields or being first-time collaboration exercises attendees. The transition from a workday often characterized by sector-specific drilling with a focus on everyday problems to solve complex and often-comprehensive situations together with representatives from other sectors seems probably both exciting and meaningful. It can also reduce possible professional centrism (Berlin and Carlström, 2012) and give directions to how exercises and collaboration practices work.

An interesting finding was that after attending a few more exercises (2–4), the mean perceived level of collaboration decreases by 6.7 percent, and falls from the “mildly agree” to the “neutral” response alternative. This indicates that the participants have become more uncertain about whether the exercises truly had a collaboration focus. Possible reasons may include the lack of perceived focus on the true purpose of the exercise, hence resulting in collaboration development rather than drilling, and not be given the opportunity to improvise or try out new strategies across sectors (Berlin and Carlström, 2015).

The decreasing development continues and reaches its lowest peak after attending 5–7 exercises with a percent change of – 5.86 compared to the 2–4 group. However, after that, the graph points upwards again. A review of the density of national cross-sector collaboration exercises in Norway (Norwegian directorate for civil protection, 2018) indicated that collaboration exercises crossing organizational agendas and professional routines are somewhat rare. It can therefore be assumed that participants when reaching the 5–7 experience group have built several years of professional experience, which may be an influencing factor as they now possibly feel comfortable within their own organization, and have developed a deeper understanding of what is needed to build cross-sector collaboration with others.

Public organizations tend to be well rooted in mechanistic organization patterns (Burns and Stalker, 1961), often characterized by a clear vertical distribution of command and control (C2). Such patterns can pose a challenge to cross-sector collaboration in crisis, which often requires a more rapid sharing of information and ideas, and an ability to operate in organizational interfaces (Brattberg, 2012). The applied CLU-instrument (Berlin and Carlström, 2015) emphasizes the importance of having ones’ opinion heard as an important collaboration developer. If the exercise participants (now with assumed comprehensive professional experience) do not feel that they can utter their opinion across sectors due to a strict hierarchical internal structure, perceived collaboration development will suffer. On that note, after a period of decrease, the calculations showed that the perceived collaboration focus ascended after attending 8–10 exercises (+ 13.31 percent) and 11+ (+3.24 percent). The highest mean score for the collaboration dimension was found among those who had attended 11+ exercises (M=4.13). However, compared to the initial 0–1 group, the total increase was only at 2.73 percent. These results indicated that the perceived collaboration focus goes up with exercise experience, but in light of the rapid documented decrease, this is probably due to increased professional experience and development rather than exercise influence. This promotes the idea that if exercises are path dependent, they need to create greater variance in order to keep on learning from and refining collaborative practices.

When examining learning, the initial perceived mean outcome for the 0–1 group was somewhat higher compared to the collaboration dimension (M=4.45 vs M=4.02). This indicated that the perceived level of learning was strong amongst those with little exercise experience. However, after reportedly attending 3–4 exercises, perceived learning drops remarkably by 30.78 percent (M=3.08) and puts the mean outcome close to the mildly disagree response alternative. This indicated that many of the items associated with learning development, such as learning about collaborating organization’s structure, goals and language (Berlin and Carlström, 2015), were perceived absent. A possible explanation may be that previous exercises had been characterized by sequential and parallel collaboration patterns where the focus was on performing and protecting individual sector specific tasks and problem solving rather than focusing on collaborative learning and development. When reaching the 5–7 (M=3.41) and 8–10 (M=3.73) group, a somewhat increase in perceived mean learning was identified before it again dropped down to a mean of 3.05 for the 11+ group. Hence, those who have attended most previous exercises reported the lowest perceived level of learning. The assumptions are, just as for the collaboration dimension, that increased everyday professional experience among the members of 5–7 and 8–10 groups has resulted in general increased knowledge of external organization’s organizational structure, goals and communication patterns, which positively affected their responses to the learning questions which largely focused on the structure of collaborating organizations. This assumption is also being supported later by the decrease in perceived learning among the members of the 11+ groups, which revealed the lowest mean learning score throughout the study. Such a low learning rating (M=3.05) indicated that when reaching a certain number of attended exercises, perceived learning is limited. Based on the concepts of Asplund (1967), this finding may indicate that collaboration exercises in their current form have started to reach their saturation point, which no longer being viewed as innovative due to the lack of necessary challenges and enhanced analysis. Possible explanations include that exercises tend to be characterized by standardization (Kim, 2013) with an extensive focus on drilling rather than collaboration development (Berlin and Carlström, 2015; Kristiansen et al., 2017; Sørensen, 2017), and suffer under possible in-cooperated path dependency (Selznick, 1957), impression management (Schlenker, 2012) and self-reinforcing behavior (Boin et al., 2005).

The study of utility showed that the least experienced participants (0–1 group) responded between neutral and mildly agree (M=3.27) when it came to perceived exercise utility value. While such a result is not surprising due to their lack of exercise experience, and simultaneously indicated a possible lack of collaboration focus during the planning phase and absence of clear instructions of collaborative practice before, during, and after execution (Berlin and Carlström, 2015). Compared to collaboration and learning, the perceived utility then experienced an upturn (+7.95 percent) in the 2–4 group, but soon rapidly decreased by 11.33 percent for the 5–7 group. In other words, the participant, given a sequential or parallel working pattern, now being more experienced, and feel more comfortable performing their sector-specific tasks can explain the increase. However, the succeeding downturn (−11.33 percent) indicated, after some additional years of professional experience, an uncertainty related to whether the outcome of the exercise had a practical collaboration utility value in real crisis work. Such uncertainty can be explained by the lack of focus on collaboration initiatives in the planning phase (Berlin and Carlstrom, 2011), and too complex and comprehensive exercise scenarios (Kristiansen et al., 2017). The results may as well indicate a dominance of first-order learning (Stein, 1997). The calculated mean results for the 8–10 and 11+ group showed that the perceived utility value increased together with the number of exercises attended, and reached its peak (M=3.61) in the 11+ group, which indicated that there is a relationship between increased exercise attendance and perceived usefulness. Yet, due to the fluctuations in results among the different groups, the increase in utility value is more likely explained through additional years of individual professional growth, development and experience, rather than exercise dividend. The results for the 11+ group indicate that the perceived levels of utility are higher than learning. This shows that operatives still consider cross-sector collaboration exercises somewhat useful in terms of coming together and exercise scenarios that have to be resolved through collaboration. However, the decrease in learning indicates that the most experienced group perceives a lack of collaborative learning elements, which signals an existing focus on a sector-specific task distribution rather than collaborative initiatives and approaches.

Conclusion and recommendations

The goal of collaboration exercises is to strengthen collaboration between both organizations and individuals and to increase learning and usefulness. The purpose of this non-experimental quantitative survey based study was to investigate the perceived effects of a maritime cross-sector collaboration exercise. More specifically, this study aimed to examine whether past exercise experience had an impact on the operative exercise participant’s perceived levels of collaboration, learning and usefulness. All CLU dimensions experienced decreases and increases; however, whilst perceived levels of collaboration and utility reached their somewhat modest peaks among those with the most exercise experience, perceived learning was at its highest among those with none or little exercise experience, and at its lowest among those with most. These findings indicated that collaboration exercises have too little focus on collaborative learning, hence being stuck in standardized patterns dominated by sequential and parallel working methodologies. We recommend that exercise designers need to have a stronger emphasis on collaborative learning during exercises, and continuously work to develop scripts and scenarios in a way that leads to continuous participant perceived learning and utility. We suggest that less emphasis on scripts and more emphasis on variation, improvisation and the unforeseen can keep the old dogs on the track of the learning curve.

Figures

SPSS graphic representation of mean CLU

Figure 1

SPSS graphic representation of mean CLU

CLU – scale

C The exercises were focused on collaboration
C Sufficient forms of discussions were provided
C There were opportunities to improvise
C Personnel in need of exercise participated
C Collaboration was initiated immediately
C Clear instructions of collaboration were presented
C My points of view were regarded
L I learned new things during the exercise
L I learned about other’s organizational aspects
L I learned about other’s communication patterns
L I learned about other’s prioritizing of activities
L I learned other’s concepts and abbreviations
U Based on what I learned, the exercises were useful to real-life activities during actual emergency work
U Based on what I learned, the exercises were useful to command officers
U Based on what I learned, the exercises were useful to ordinary operative staff
U Based on what I learned, the experiences from the exercise were so useful that it will have an impact on my daily work

Notes: C, Collaboration; L, learning; U, usefulness

Mean calculations of collaboration, learning, and utility (CLU) values with a change in percent

Number of previous exercises attended Mean collaboration Change % Mean learning Change % Mean utility Change %
0 – 1 4.02 0.00 4.45 0.00 3.27 0.00
2 – 4 3.75 −6.71 3.08 −30.78 3.53 +7.95
5 – 7 3.53 −5.86 3.41 +10.71 3.13 −11.33
8 – 10 4.00 +13.31 3.73 +9.38 3.54 +13.09
11+ 4.13 +3.24 3.05 −18.23 3.61 +1.97

Note: n=45

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Further reading

Accident Investigation Board Norway (2011), “Report on investigation into marine accident M/V Godafoss V2pm7 grounding in Løperen”, Hvaler on February 17, available at: www.aibn.no/Sjofart/Rapporter/2012-09-eng

Argyris, C. (1977), “Organizational learning and management information systems”, Accounting, Organizations and Society, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 113-123.

Lakey, J.R.A., Barratt, K.L. and Marchant, C.P. (1986), “A nuclear reactor emergency exercise”, Emergency planning and preparedness for nuclear facilities.

Corresponding author

Jarle Lowe Sorensen can be contacted at: jarle.sorensen@usn.no