Task Management: Core Enabling Knowledge

The first element of core enabling knowledge is to establish the relevance and importance of task management as a domain of non-technical skills and to illustrate its role in contributing to adverse events. This introduction will touch on each of the elements of task management as relevant to the trainees’ role and industry context.

The Role of Planning in Performance

Knowledge relating to the critical role of planning in subsequent performance is probably the first element of core enabling knowledge to be introduced. Strong links have been established between planning and team performance across high-risk industries. Research has shown that teams who plan effectively maintain better shared mental models, communicate better and have improved team performance.3

There is also a clear link between planning and the non-technical domain of communication. It has been shown that the most effective teams in high-risk industries discuss problems in greater depth and use low-workload periods to discuss options and to plan ahead.4 Likewise, sub-optimal planning performance is associated with a higher risk of accident or incident, with, for instance, over 20% of medical malpractice incidents being attributed to deficiencies in planning in one study alone.5

Core enabling knowledge relating to planning should focus on the specific actions that constitute effective planning, such as the processes of setting goals, assigning roles and responsibilities, discussing operational and environmental constraints and setting expectations for information sharing and problem solving. Planning can occur prior to a specific task, or during a task when a dynamic need arises. Indeed, in high-risk industries, the ability of teams to reconfigure a plan when operational complexities demand it has been demonstrated to be critical for maintaining safety.6

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