All volunteer leaders will at some time during their tenure arrive at a point where a decision must be made that has significant risk management implications for either the group as a whole, or for one or more members of the group.

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For instance, despite having spent weeks or months planning an event, at times a decision must be made as to whether to proceed with the event if, at the time of the event, (1) the conditions under which the event will occur are more challenging or severe than originally contemplated, (2) one or more participants are less prepared than desired, or (3) a deficiency in gear exists.

But, can the decision as to whether to proceed be unduly influenced by the time and effort that was required to plan the event?  Reported stories suggest it is sometimes so influenced, but should it be?

The extent of effort put into the planning of an activity should have no bearing on whether the activity actually proceeds, particularly if the risk involved is greater than originally contemplated. The exercise of bad judgment in determining to proceed with an activity under risky conditions is not excused or justified by the fact that (1) lots of time and effort went into the planning of the activity (“We should still proceed, we spent hours planning for this!”), or, for instance, (2) a long drive was required to arrive at the activity venue (as is sometimes the case), such as “We’ve driven hours from home for this event, so we can’t cancel now, just because the river water is higher than we expected!”

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Indeed, the planning for an activity should desirably include criteria for the minimum acceptable conditions to be tolerated, the minimum degree of preparation required of the participants, and/or whether the appropriate gear is available, which criteria form the basis for any “go-no go” decision for the activity. 

This may assist in preventing the extent of pre-activity preparation from unduly influencing the decision regarding whether the activity proceeds, with undesirable results.

To plan or proceed otherwise is to fail to exercise an adult leader’s duty of care toward the participants to the activity!  Remember, merely “hoping” things work out for the best is not a plan . . . 

Preparation vs. the “go-no go” decision