Panel Paper: Managerial Cognition Counts: A Cognitive Perspective for Understanding Public Agencies’ Emergency Preparedness Efforts

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 3 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tianyi Xiang, Arizona State University

Wicked policy problems, such as unemployment, terrorist attacks and natural hazards, cut across policy and service areas. To deal with these challenges, public agencies, apart from fulfilling their primary missions, are now acting beyond the traditional organizational boundary and playing roles in a wide range of issue networks. In the U.S., a wide range of public agencies serve emergency support functions in the emergency management service system beyond their routine tasks. The effectiveness of emergency response is greatly dependent upon public agencies preparedness efforts beforehand. However, what factors explain public agencies’ varying levels of efforts devoted to this non-primary function, emergency preparedness, still remains for exploration.

Organizational decision-making and action-taking greatly rely on how managers make sense of the environment, interpret the problem and construct meaning accordingly. This paper takes a cognitive perspective and aims to understand what managerial cognitive factors are related to public agencies’ emergency preparedness efforts. Using a 2016 national survey of U.S. public transit agencies, I particularly examined how managerial perceptions of the risks (risk perception), of the action’s legitimacy (issue legitimacy) and of the organization’s capability (efficacy belief) are related to the agency’s emergency preparedness efforts. I used Poisson models to conduct the analysis. Results show that both managerial risk perceptions and efficacy beliefs of their organization’s capabilities are significantly correlated with their agencies emergency preparedness actions. The findings inform the literature on organizational disaster preparedness and offer insights on how to promote public agencies’ emergency preparedness efforts.