Is your judgement as good as you think it is?


Operational judgement testing

A few years ago I did some work in an FRS where an assessment of candidates’ judgement in operational situations was conducted using a computer based simulation. Basically, a scenario played out on a computer screen involving a developing fire, teams to be deployed and a range of in situ hazards. The candidate had to make decisions on how to proceed, which guided how the scenario played out. If the stakes hadn’t been so high i.e. promotions were resting on it, it might have been an enjoyable exercise! As it was, the pressure to make the right decisions was immense.

Poor decisions, poor outcomes

There were several ways the situation could go, one of which being gas canisters behind a storage facility going ‘boom’. The canisters went boom a lot, with candidates making a range of different judgement calls, some of which led to this unexpected consequence. It wasn’t that all of their decisions were at fault; but the wrong combination, despite best their efforts, and the outcomes were a disaster.

Are you a good judge?

The interesting thing was, all of these candidates believed they were ‘good firefighters’ (and to be fair, they probably largely were in many ways). None of them felt they ever had any cause to question their judgement. After all, we all have great judgement all of the time, right?

It’s very difficult to objectively weigh up the judgements we make to see how effective they are. That was why a negative outcome in the computer simulation came as such a shock- no one really suspects they make poor choices or bad judgement calls. But we all do from time to time. So how can we mitigate this?

7 tips to judge your judgement skills

  • Be open-minded. Don’t expect to always get it right. If you assume you are always right, you aren’t going to see where you might be going wrong.
  • Be objective. This will help you examine your actions from a range of perspectives to get a fuller picture.
  • Seek feedback. Don’t be afraid to get input from others. They might see something you can’t. You just need to be prepared to hear it.
  • Consider alternatives. Your initial judgement may lead to a specific decisions, but take time to consider what other judgements could have value, weighing up the pros and cons.
  • Be aware of other priorities. Your judgements might be based on your own priorities, but there may be others to consider if you look at the problem from more angles than you may naturally be inclined to do.
  • Consider more than one impact. The first impact you assess probably won’t be the only one. Go back and look for more, as this might change your judgement of the situation.
  • Be prepared to learn. It’s ok if the judgement you have made turns out not to be the best one for the situation. You just need to be willing to learn from it, rather than dismiss the opinions of others as wrong.
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