Mission command in the age of network-enabled operations: social network analysis of information sharing and situation awareness
Fitzhugh, Sean M.
Marusich, Laura R.
Ungvarsky, Diane M.
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A common assumption in organizations is that information sharing improves situation awareness and ultimately organizational effectiveness. The sheer volume and rapid pace of information and communications received and readily accessible through computer networks, however, can overwhelm individuals, resulting in data overload from a combination of diverse data sources, multiple data formats, and large data volumes. The current conceptual framework of network enabled operations (NEO) posits that robust networking and information sharing act as a positive feedback loop resulting in greater situation awareness and mission effectiveness in military operations (Alberts and Garstka, 2004). We test this assumption in a large-scale, 2-week military training exercise. We conducted a social network analysis of email communications among the multi-echelon Mission Command staff (one Division and two sub-ordinate Brigades) and assessed the situational awareness of every individual. Results from our exponential random graph models challenge the aforementioned assumption, as increased email output was associated with lower individual situation awareness. It emerged that higher situation awareness was associated with a lower probability of out-ties, so that broadly sending many messages decreased the likelihood of attaining situation awareness. This challenges the hypothesis that increased information sharing improves situation awareness, at least for those doing the bulk of the sharing. In addition, we observed two trends that reflect a compartmentalizing of networked information sharing as email links l were more commonly formed among members of the command staff with both similar functions and levels of situation awareness, than between two individuals with dissimilar functions and levels of situation awareness; both those findings can be interpreted to reflect effects of homophily. Our results have major implications that challenge the current conceptual framework of NEO. In addition, the information sharing network was largely imbalanced and dominated by a few key individuals so that most individuals in the network have very few email connections, but a small number of individuals have very many connections. These results highlight several major growing pains for networked organizations and military organizations in particular.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00937Reviewed by: Sean Everton, Naval Postgraduate School, USA Susan L. McDonald, SAIC USA, USA
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