Managing the Unexpected

Weick, Karl E.; Sutcliffe, Kathleen M.
April 2010
Managing the Unexpected - Business Book Summaries;2010, Vol. 1 Issue 1, p1
Book Summary
Book Summary
Organizations face unexpected events on a regular basis. Successful organizations know that they must deal with these events with flexibility, adaptability, and alertness. They also learn from their mistakes and are less concerned with blame. In contrast, organizations that confront unexpected events by covering up errors, assigning blame, and ignoring warning signs may soon find themselves suffering the repercussions. Psychologist Karl E. Weick and college business educator Kathleen M. Sutcliffe, authors of Managing the Unexpected, provide a blueprint for managers looking to forge successful organizations, which they term high reliability organizations (HROs). The authors show how some organizations collapse under their own weight while others adapt by using the principles of HRO. To forge high reliability organizations, five principles must be followed: Preoccupation with failure. HROs stand above other organizations because their managers think constantly about failure, treating mistakes as symptoms of underlying problems. Even small mistakes command attention. Reluctance to simplify. Many executives consider themselves "big picture" managers who are not concerned with details, thereby leaving those matters to underlings. The authors argue that HRO managers should be interested in every little detail of their organization, which helps them see how minor matters eventually explode into catastrophic events. Sensitivity to operations. HRO managers should spend a lot of time among the people in the organization who get their hands dirty so that they understand how every job contributes to the organization's success. Commitment to resilience. The successful HRO recognizes its mistakes and corrects them. Other organizations hide mistakes or refuse to acknowledge they exist. Deference to expertise. The HRO manager listens to what the experts say, regardless of where that expertise may be found. HROs recruit diverse voices and encourage them to speak up, and they...


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