Class I: Organizational Decision-Making in Crisis

Provided by Markus Reihlen, Leuphana University Lüneburg

Guiding questions: How do we understand decision-making processes in times of crisis, conflict and war? How do typical decision-making biases lead to war?



Core readings

Bukkvoll, T. (2016). Why Putin went to war: Ideology, interests and decision-making in the Russian use of force in Crimea and Donbas. Contemporary Politics, 22(3), 267-282. PDF

Hodgkinson, G. P., & Starbuck, W. H. (2012). Organizational decision making: Mapping terrains on different planets. In: Hodgkinson, G. P., & Starbuck, W. H. (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Decision Making. Oxford University Press, 1-31. PDF

Contemporary news articles

Gessen, K. (2022). Was it inevitable? A short history of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The Guardian, March 11.

Gorris, L. (2022). “Putin lives in historic analogies and metaphors” – An interview with Ivan Krastev. Der Spiegel, March 17.

Post-lecture assignment

Write a short (about 500 words each) memo about the following two questions:

  1. In the lecture we introduced four models of organizational decision making. Based on the background readings and video material, give a brief account of how each model – the rational, the sensemaking, the organizational routine, and the politics model – would explain the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  2. Assess these four accounts and try to synthesize them into your own explanation of how decision making in the Kremlin unfolded. In order to do so, try to take the dynamics of events into account. 

Background readings

Allison, G. T. (1969). Conceptual models and the Cuban missile crisis. American Political Science Review, 63(3), 689-718. PDF

Hart, P. (1991). Irving L. Janis’ victims of groupthink. Political Psychology, 247-278. PDF

Langley, A., Mintzberg, H., Pitcher, P., Posada, E., & Saint-Macary, J. (1995). Opening up decision making: The view from the black stool. Organization Science, 6(3), 260-279. PDF

Kornberger, M., Leixnering, S., & Meyer, R. E. (2019). The logic of tact: How decisions happen in situations of crisis. Organization Studies, 40(2), 239-266. PDF

Background videos
The psychology of an isolated Russia (by Stephen Kotkin, Princeton University & The New Yorker) 

Decision-making in Russia (by Ekaterina Mikhailovna Schulmann, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration/Moscow School for the Social and Economic Sciences & Nikolai Petrov, Chatham House/Higher School of Economics in Moscow) 

Organizational decision-making in crisis (by Elke Schüßler, Johannes Kepler University)

Crisis management (by Markus Reihlen, Leuphana University of Lüneburg)