Class 2: Organizing in and for the Unexpected

Provided by Daniel Geiger, University of Hamburg

Guiding question: How can organizations be designed to routinely deal with unexpected events?


Slides: PDF / PPT

Core readings

Bechky, B. A., & Okhuysen, G. A. (2011). Expecting the unexpected? How SWAT officers and film crews handle surprises. Academy of Management Journal, 54, 239-361. PDF

Bigley, G. A., & Roberts, K. H. 2001. The incident command system: High-reliability organizing for complex and volatile task environments. Academy of Management Journal, 44(6): 1281-1299. PDF

Contemporary news article

Kliff, S. (2020). U.S. Hospitals Prepare for Coronavirus, With the Worst Still to Come. The New York Times, March 12, 2020

Post-lecture assignment

Write a short (about 250 words each) memo about the following two questions:

  1. What were key reasons why the preparedness plans of the US hospitals did not work for the case of COVID-19?
  2. Please discuss how high-reliability organizations such as hospitals can practice flexibility whilst maintaining the core operations. What role do organizational rules play in this regard?

Background readings

Danner-Schröder, A., & Geiger, D. 2016. Unravelling the motor of patterning work: Toward an understanding of the micro-level dynamics of standardization and flexibility. Organization Science, 27(3), 633-658. PDF