Title page for ETD etd-05252009-192847

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Cavin, Glynn
Author's Email Address gcavin@bellsouth.net
URN etd-05252009-192847
Title The Problem Solving Styles of Emergency Operations Center Staffs of Local and State Government Agencies
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Human Resource Education Workforce Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Machtmes, Krisanna Committee Chair
Burnett, Michael F Committee Member
Friedel, Curtis R Committee Member
Naquin, Sharon S Committee Member
Sarker, Bhaba Dean's Representative
  • Followership
  • Sensemaking
  • Indecisiveness
Date of Defense 2009-05-14
Availability unrestricted
The purpose of this study was to investigate the demographics, leadership styles, and preferred problem solving style of the emergency management career field. The catalyst for the research was recognition that there are few scholarly investigations or theories of the cognitive processes that occur within emergency operations center staffs (EOCs), and to establish the demographic baseline.

Demographics of Louisiana participants were compared with similar demographics of participants from the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). The results revealed that the emergency management occupation is older and male dominated. The group is well educated; many IAEM members having advanced degrees. The majority has had at least some formal emergency management training and almost all have participated in declared disasters. Because the workforce is getting older, has well developed knowledge, and extensive experience it is imperative to take advantage of this resource for research purposes while it is still available. The investigation of leadership style, as measured by the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, revealed that the members of Louisiana emergency operations centers that responded were perceived to be transformational leaders and exhibited minimum laissez-faire (avoidant) leadership traits, based on Bass and Riggio’s Full Range of Leadership theory.

This study brought together M. J. Kirton’s concept of Adaptive – Innovative problem solving style with elements of crisis decision making theory in an attempt to advance understanding of the complex dynamics that occur during a disaster. Kirton has shown that individuals have preferred problem solving styles, and that if leaders are aware of these styles, they can take advantage of that knowledge to build more effective teams. But the preferred problem solving styles of the staff of emergency operations centers had not been established before. The findings in this study indicated that members of Louisiana EOCs, as a group, were more innovative than typical mid-level civil servants. The overall implications are that Louisiana EOC members for the most part, are experienced, older, excellent leaders, and innovative problem solvers. Much research remains to be done to extend this initial understanding of the occupation and how they make decisions during a crisis.

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