Join the Mission Critical Team Institute


Improve the Success, Survivability, and Sustainability of Mission Critical Teams

If tomorrow you were told that you had six months to build a team to resolve a future radical change event, how would you do it? How do you teach something you may not have a language for? How do you teach someone to ride a bike? As soon as you start considering this problem, you encounter the Tacit Knowledge Transfer Problem. Just because you may be an expert cyclist does not mean you possess the language or the skills to be an expert cycling instructor.

What would be your methodologies, frameworks, and/or underlying assumptions?

Our goal, in partnering with both researchers and practitioners, is to develop collaborative applied research focused on helping Mission Critical Teams effectively detect, recognize, react, respond, and recover from the radical change events caused by rapidly emergent complex adaptive problem sets

The Instructor Cadres within Emergency Medicine, Urban and Wildland Fire, Tactical Law Enforcement, or Military Special Operations face this problem every day. The Mission Critical Team Institute was founded to partner with Mission Critical Team Instructor Cadres to develop a more precise and scientifically valid language, to more efficiently and effectively transfer tacit knowledge.


The original Mission Critical Team Initiative (MCTI) was founded in 2016 at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with the purpose of trying to understand and improve how individuals and teams learn to navigate uncertainty. It was created at the urging of specific teams within the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and the Federal Bureau of Investigation out of a need for an independent applied research and education organization focused on improving Recruitment, Assessment, Selection, Training, Education, and Professional Development of the human factors within Mission Critical Teams. In 2018, the initiative transitioned into the independent Mission Critical Team© Institute, which currently serves a collaborative inquiry community that includes teams in Aerospace (NASA), Military Special Operations (FVEY Community), Tactical Law Enforcement, Urban and Wilderness Fire Fighting, Mission Critical Medicine, and Professional Sports from around the world. Our intent is to support teams to continuously develop their internal resources so that their missions become more successful, sustainable, and survivable through:

Collaborative Inquiry: MCTI Applied Research Model

MCTI is an applied research, training, and education institute which utilizes a “Collaborative Inquiry” research model allowing us to engage in research WITH, rather than ON, our partners. To better protect the privacy of both the teams, and individuals, within the MCTI community, we have adopted the New Zealand Kaupapa Māori engagement principles of initiation, benefits, representation, legitimation, and accountability [23].

Observation Stage: Observing a Novel Phenomenon and research initiation.

Through ongoing engagements and observations of our partner teams, we often encounter emergent issues facing the team’s human factors. Once the issue is identified and seen to be both emergent and in need of investigation, we will author a “Green Paper.”

Green Paper: Ideation and Representation Stage

A Green Paper is an initial description of an emergent issue or opportunity facing MCTs which we author and distribute to the MCTI community to determine if the issue warrants further investigation. A green paper is typically released utilizing the “unfinished principle” to encourage maximum engagement from the MCTI community.

Gray Paper: Legitimation and Accountability Stage

After receiving feedback from the MCTI community and engaging in rigorous academic research, MCTI will transition the Green Paper into a Gray Paper. This is our method for peer review to ensure that the community (which includes team members, academics, and subject matter experts) has an opportunity for final comments or objections. Once those comments are captured and validated, the paper is turned into a White Paper.

White Paper: Final Stage

The final paper is then reformatted into a white paper and distributed to the teams, such as our Residue article.

In cases where our teams are public-facing, or wish to share the research, we will also partner with them to formally publish our findings, such as:

A Better Approach to After-Action Reviews, Angus Fletcher, Preston B. Cline, and Matthew Hoffman, Harvard Business Review, January 12, 2023

A Novel Framework for Routine Versus Critical Communication in Surgical Education—Don’t Take It Personally, Falk, David MD; Cline, Preston EdD; Donegan, Derek MD, MBA; Mehta, Samir MDJournal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 31(3):p 115-121, February 1, 2023. | DOI: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-22-00912

Update the Curriculum

The information in the White Paper is then reformatted into the curriculum we teach within our MCTI courses which allows us to constantly update our curriculum based on emergent findings from the teams themselves. Our goal is to update modules within our curriculum every 6 to 12 months in order to provide teams with the tools they will need “on Monday.”

Research Distribution

The final step in our process is to record an interview with the authors on our podcast called the MCTI “Teamcast,” where we discuss and explain our ongoing research to the general public.

Collaborative Inquiry Community

The Mission Critical Team Initiative was created to support those teams by inviting them into a Collaborative Inquiry Community to share effective practices, validate applied research, and innovate in the area of learning, instruction, and professional development.

We hope that this community will act as an incubator for innovative practices related to questions such as: How do we develop expertise to navigate complex environments? How do we maintain expertise, once we have it? How do we construct and maintain high-performance teams in the face of ongoing adversity?


  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


  • Fire Department of New York (FDNY)
  • National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute (NAFRI)
  • San Diego Fire and Rescue Department (SDFRD)
  • U.S. Forest Service — Wildland Fire (USFS)
  • U.S. National Park Service — Wildland Fire (USNPS)
  • Austin Fire Department
  • Orange County Fire Authority


  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • U.S. Secret Service


  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Stanford University Emergency and Trauma Medicine
  • University of Pennsylvania Traumatology
  • Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland
  • Mayo Clinic


  • Australian Special Operations Command (AUSSOCOMD)
  • Canadian Special Operations Command (CANSOFCOM)
  • New Zealand Special Operations Forces (NZSOF)
  • United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF)
  • U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)
  • U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC)
  • U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC)
  • U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)
  • U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC)
  • U.S. Naval Special Warfare (NSW)


  • U.S. Air Force Weapons School (USAF-WS)
  • U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS)
  • Naval Special Warfare Training Command


  • Team Rubicon — International Crisis Response (TR)
  • Station Foundation FDNY Foundation
  • Navy SEAL Foundation


  • Cleveland Indians (Major League Baseball)
  • Philadelphia Eagles (National Football League)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates (Major League Baseball)
  • Toronto Blue Jays (Major League Baseball)
  • Cleveland Browns
  • New Zealand All Blacks
  • Pittsburg Penguins
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Melbourne Storm

Our Programs

Collaborative Inquiry Programs
These are educational courses from two to five days in duration on issues such as Assessment and Selection, Instructor Cadre Development Program, Leadership of Tactical Swarms, Detachment Commander Course, and others.

These are one to two-day retreats for intact teams experiencing some type of transition.

Research and Development
Members of our team will come to your site to observe the training and education of your personnel and collaborate with the team to prototype solutions to emergent problems.

Our faculty are available to speak at larger Mission Critical Team Events.

Mission Critical Teams

Co-Founder, Director: Dr. Preston B. Cline
Co-Founder, Emeritus: Coleman Ruiz

Director MCTI Australia & New Zealand:
Harry Moffitt

Mission: To improve the success, survivability, and sustainability of MCTs via collaboration and applied research focusing on rapidly emergent complex adaptive problem sets. 

Mission Critical Medicine Program Director & Chief Medical Officer:
Dr. Dan Dworkis

Mission: To improve the success, survivability, and sustainability both of medical teams operating in mission critical environments and of mission critical teams operating in medical capacities.

Mission Critical Psychology
Program Director:

Dr. Art Finch

Mission: Mission Critical Psychology was founded on a strength, or asset-based, framework focused on supporting operators to make meaning of the residue which emerges from their lived experiences. Individuals who have chosen the hard path continue to need the skills and knowledge to navigate their world without being labeled as broken or in need of fixing.

Mission Critical Story
Program Director:

Clare Murphy

Mission: To support individuals and MCTs in bringing intention and understanding to the narratives they use to describe themselves and their world and influence their destinies. MCTI believes that storytelling is not a soft skill but an ancient technology designed for increased understanding and retention and that MCTs are fundamentally communities with storytelling cultures.

The MCTI Team

The Team

MCTI aims to improve the success, survivability and sustainability of Mission Critical Teams.

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Current MCTI members, please fill out below form to in order to receive your login credentials to register for future programs. If you’re a non-member, please fill out the below forms to receive information on becoming part of the collaborative inquiry community and to receive our newsletter.
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