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Assignment Instructions Tutorial 

Welcome to the assignment instructions tutorial. In this article we’ll take a look at the SIRV decision tree feature to build a specific type of procedure, assignment instructions.

The decision tree feature is ideal for anyone looking to formalise procedures and promote compliant behaviour.

Most organisations record procedures using traditional methods such as flow charts stored in a PDF format. The SIRV decision tree feature has significant benefits over this method. 

SIRV Reporting and Tracking Software: Building Procedures (Assignment Instructions) Tutorial - Decision Trees feature

Business Case: 4 Reasons for Decision Trees

1) Compliance & Best Practice

Most procedures are made and then left on a shelf somewhere, only to be seen once a year.

A SIRV decision tree can be seen real-time in the field at any time.

The availability and accessibility of the SIRV decision tree gives users the opportunity to check whether their decision making complies with best practice.

2) Relevant

We work in a rapidly changing world that often calls for changes in procedures. However, changing paper based procedures is time consuming.

With SIRV, any change to a procedure is reflected instantly.

3) Claims Defence

The SIRV decision tree audit feature tracks each time a user accesses and follows a procedure.

This is particularly valuable when making a claims defence.

4) Refresher Training

You can use the decision tree feature to refresh training.

It is easy to take users through a decision tree and ask questions. The audit feature means you can track performance. Ideal for refresher training or inducting new people on site.

Take me straight to the user tutorial

Background: What is a Decision Tree?

We are really excited about the decision tree feature. It can have a real impact on people’s decision making and behaviour.

Organisations will deploy our decision tree feature for:

  • Disaster recovery plans
  • Safety protocols
  • Cleaning procedures
  • Assignment instructions (Security)

People use decision trees in many walks of life, in particular finance, software and engineering. However, our inspiration came from the commercial aircraft market, which in-turn took their lead from the United Stated Air Force.

Aircraft Crashes

Back in 1935 the United States Army Air Corp found flying aircraft had become so complex that pilots were unable to process all the aircraft’s different functions. For example, during a flight contest in which a brand new Boeing long range bomber took off, climbed 300 feet, stalled and crashed killing two of the five crew. The complexity was too much for the crew during during take off. As a solution the aircraft industry began unburdening pilots by giving them checklists to complete.

(Further information available in Checklist Manifesto). 

Today these checklists have developed into decision trees. If they face a problem on an aircraft know not to compute all their options. Instead, they are taught to consult their checklists and decision trees.

The aircraft industry saw the human mind cannot be relied to quickly decide in life and death situations.

Decision Trees vs Assignment Instructions

Assignment instructions are specific procedures for security guards. Although security guards do not fly planes they do face high impact, low frequency events. Whether it is checking suspicious items or assessing a water leak above a tech room, they too can benefit from the clarity of a decision tree.

Paper based assignment instructions have the following drawbacks:

  • Slow: Not all the information assignment instructions contain is relevant to a decision maker, for example version numbering. Therefore, decisions are slow.
  • Unclear: The unstructured format of assignment instructions means procedural guidance is vague.
  • Hard work: There is a natural resistance to ploughing through dense, word heavy documentation, particularly in a time pressured situation. 
  • Inaccessible: Files containing assignment instructions are usually stored in a control centre. As a result, decisions made are remote from the decision maker in the field.

In contrast, decision trees are quick, easy to follow, prescriptive and accessible. 

Decision Trees vs Flow Charts

If you already have flow charts you may have something very similar to a decision tree. However, the SIRV decision tree feature differs from a flow chart in two important ways:

1) To reduce uncertainty the SIRV decision tree provides a fixed structure. For example, you can only ask one question at a time. 

2) A flow chart on paper allows the decision maker to review the entire flow chart. SIRV limits the decision maker to viewing only one question and its respective answers. This clarity helps the user concentrate on the decision at hand.

Foreground: How to Build a Decision Tree

We’ll look at the SIRV decision tree feature by breaking it down into three areas:

Building a Basic Decision Tree

  • Question
  • Answer
  • Advice

Editing a decision tree

  • Insert level
  • Delete level

Advanced features

  • Gateways
  • Ending in another decision tree
  • Ending in another branch of the same decision tree
  • End in an incident or event
  • Audit Trail

Designing your first Decision Tree

Plan

You can dive straight into building a decision tree. However, if you’re writing a complex procedure / assignment instruction, you’ll soon find a decision tree’s logical structure demands some forethought.

Important considerations:

  • A decision tree follows the format of one question and one or more answers. Each question and answer(s) represent a level.
  • A link between decision tree branches is possible.
  • A link between decision trees is possible.
  • The decision tree user can only view one question and answer(s) at a time.

Unlike many assignment instructions, decision trees are highly prescriptive. If you already have written procedures you will find ‘fuzzy instructions’ inappropriate. For example, an assignment instruction can set a task such as ‘Contact Gold Command’. But, should communication be through phone, email or text? Decision trees are a great way to eliminate confusion and be prescriptive.

Draft

Whenever we help organisations build their decision trees we stress test their logic by drafting the decision tree on a white board or large A3 sheet of paper before commencing the build in SIRV. This is time well spent.  

Do & Review

Building a decision tree can take as little or as much time as you like. Regardless of complexity whenever you are building a decision tree ensure you regularly save it.

When you review a decision tree ensure you view its appearance on the screen the decision maker will use. Information displayed on a 15 inch landscape laptop looks very different on a 4 inch portrait mobile phone.

Building a Basic Decision Tree

In the following video we look at building a simple three level decision tree. We name the tree and add the following elements: 

  • Question
  • Answer
  • Advice

Edit a Decision Tree

Edit a decision tree at any time. Once changes are made the decision tree will automatically update.

Sometimes a decision tree is built but a new question is needed or one needs to be taken away. In the following video we look at editing a decision tree by:

  • Add a level 
  • Delete a level

Advanced Features

Here are some advanced decision tree features:

Gateways

A gateway stops the user advancing to another level until they have answered positively (Yes) to your question(s). If an answer is negative (No) the user is unable to progress to the next level in the decision tree.

Ending a decision tree branch at the start of another decision tree

Often one assignment instruction / procedure will refer to another assignment instruction / procedure. For example, assignment instructions for suspicious items or fire alarms will often refer to the same evacuation assignment instruction. SIRV allows a link in any branch to the start of another decision tree. 

Link a branch in a decision tree with another branch in the same decision tree 

This allows a link to one branch in a decision tree to another branch in the same decision tree.

Ending a decision tree branch in an incident or event form

At the end of a branch you may want the user to be asked to complete an incident or event form. 

Audit Trail

Every time you view a decision tree it records:

  • Who saw the decision tree and when
  • Route taken through the decision tree

This information is shown through a usage search, shown in the video below.

Conclusion

The pay back for investing time in decision trees is obvious and rapid. Users have power to make better decisions locally and management receive fewer queries. Building a decision tree is simple and some would say fun. 

The following decision trees are available, ready built when you purchase SIRV:

  • Business Continuity Plan
  • Bomb Threat Received
  • Ejecting People
  • Gas Leak
  • Lift Entrapment
  • Transport Safety
  • Vehicle Accident
  • Vehicle Breakdown
  • Work at Height

You can also download more procedures and assignment instructions here.

Awards

2016 Communication Product (Winner)

2017 Communication Product (Finalist)

2018 Start-up of the Year (Finalist)

2019 Innovation of the Year (Finalist)

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