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Expert System

Introduction, Situation Analysis, Instructions, Technical Background

Case 29 The Oil Spill

Setting: Ecological Protection Company; Your Position: Regional Manager

You are a regional manager in a large company specializing in ecological control systems. Your work runs the gamut from removal and disposal of toxic waste to cleaning up spills of oil and other contaminants. Typically, you work on contracts with organizations both public and private, but occasionally you are called upon to deal with situations not covered by existing contracts.

This morning you received a call from the police in a nearby town. They asked for your assistance in dealing with an oil spill which threatened a nearby river. You drove to the site with four summer interns recently hired from a nearby university. Within an hour the five of you had obtained the following picture of what happened. While filling an oil tanker, the driver had gone into the cab and had fallen asleep. Before it was noticed, 10,000 gallons of crude oil had escaped and began making its way on a downward path to the river. By the time your group got there, the oil had already made its way five miles downstream and was within six hours of reaching a wildlife sanctuary.

While the potential for environmental damage is clear, the liability is not. The driver was an employee of a small subcontractor who was uninsured and who would be forced into bankruptcy if deemed liable. The oil company contacted their insurance company who denied any responsibility for claims that might be made against them. Representatives of the two relevant governmental agencies were contacted, and they offered moral support, but neither had the half million dollars that you estimate would be necessary to contain and clean up the spill.

A decision must be made soon as to whether to risk the company's money in a matter in which reimbursement, if any, may have to be decided by the courts. The decision is yours to make. While each of the interns has all of the relevant information and is ready to implement whatever is decided, you know from past experience with college students that their strong preference would be to act quickly in order to prevent further environmental damage. Given the signal, you would need each to jump into action and supervise about 20 laborers doing the actual work of the cleanup. On the other hand, your neck would be on the line if the company were not paid for its services.

Your answer: Decide

Decision SignificanceHow important is the "quality" of the decision, i.e. to what extent does the decision have material, strategic impact on your clients or beneficiaries inside or outside of the organization. (click for details)   Group ExpertiseDoes the group collectively have the necessary knowledge to solve the problem and or make this decision? (click for details)
Importance of CommitmentTo what degree will the implementation of the decision require the support and cooperation of the group to be effective? (click for details)   Interaction ConstraintAre there time or geographic constraints which would prevent you from bringing the team together (physically or by telecom) to make the decision? (click for details)
Leader ExpertiseTo what extent do you, the leader, have the necessary knowledge to solve the problem or make this decision? (click for details)   Team Competence How competent is the group at working together as a team in solving problems or making decisions. The issue is not their factual or analytical technical knowledge, but rather their ability to work together synergistically. (click for details)
Likelihood of Commitment How likely is it that the group would accept your decision as the best course of action even though not included in the decision making process itself. (click for details)   Time/Dvpt PreferenceChoose the importance of time and development individually or use the values specified by either the Time or Development Driven model.(click for details)
Goal AlignmentTo what degree are the members of the group committed to the achievement of the oganization goals which are at stake in this decision? (click for details)      Value of TimeThe value of time varies with the number and intensity of other activities confronting you and your group. Considering your current workload, rate the value of time. (click for details)
Likelihood of DisagreementHow controversial is this decision likely to be among the members of the group? (click for details)      Value of DevelopmentHow important is it to you to develop the capabilities of your group or team, i.e. increasing their knowledge, their commitment to the organization, and their effectiveness in working together? (click for details)
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