Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Do Staff Rides Help Move the Forest Service Towards Its Goal of Becoming a Learning Organization?

Do Staff Rides Help Move the Forest Service Towards Its Goal of Becoming a Learning Organization?
On today's blog we share U.S. Forest Service Fuels Specialist Joe Harris' master degree thesis on staff rides and whether or not they help the Forest Service in its goal to be a learning organization.

We encourage students of fire and leadership to review the research and conclusions. Are we learning from our experiences? Can we do better?

Click here to download the paper or click the link above.

The Abstract

The Forest Service has declared its intention of becoming a learning organization. As a means to that end, the Forest Service has borrowed and adapted the staff ride concept from the military. This paper describes the staff ride product and compares it to what scientific research tells us about the nature of learning. Focus group sessions were conducted to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of staff rides. 

This research is intended to provide a scientific and argument basis for the digitalization of the staff ride environment for a particular organization. As such this thesis is a much a design document as it is a piece of empirical research. Designing "into the future" especially for the Forest Service's requirement, requires designing for an organization whose learning and organizations needs are quite broad and sometimes contradictory. Further sorting out of real world teaching events like the staff ride that should be transferred to digital environment at this point in time rests more on intuition than science.

The Author's Background

Joe Harris began his career with the U.S. Forest Service in 1997 on the Dixie National Forest as a timber marker. In 1998, he became a member of an Initial Attack Squad. From 1999 -2001, he worked on a Type 4 engine. After college (May 2002), he took a permanent position as Squad Boss with the Dixie Hotshots. In 2006, he detailed as a Captain (for the renamed Cedar City Hotshots), moving to Captain in 2007.

"To this day I would say that this was the best job I have ever had. But I had started a family and decided that hotshotting kept me away from the little ones too much, so I took a detail as a District FMO on a sister district in 2008. I got the job at the end of the summer."

In 2009, the Mill Flat fire--a resource benefit fire located in the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness Area that burned four air miles in one burn period and burned into the town of New Harmony, Utah, destroying three residences--would change his career path. In the aftermath of the ensuing investigation, he met Ivan Pupulidy. Together they spoke about the Mill Flat fire, including at the FLA/APA workshop in McClellan, CA. He remains a member of the FLA workshop cadre from time to time.

In 2010, he became a Fuels Specialist where he continued to work with Pupulidy. In 2012, he applied for and was sponsored by the Forest Service to attend Lund University in Sweden, pursuing a master's degree in Human Factors and System Safety.

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