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From HRO to HRN? Coordinating Organizations in the Face of Emergencies

Unexpected emergencies like disease outbreaks or relief operations following a plane crash kindle in a renewed interest in how individuals, organizations and societies actually face such crises. For management and organizational researchers, this raises a crucial question: how can organizations effectively face challenges the have not been prepared for? In business research, studies on high reliability organizations (HRO) feature prominently and focus upon how organizations deal with crisis situations. This project builds on this ground and advances research on HRO in two ways. First, HRO studies have so far had a focus on single organizations. However, as large-scale emergencies illustrate, collaboration among HROs is frequently a vital requisite. Hence our first objective is: to explore the range of possible constellations of HROs in the face of significant emergencies towards the formation and coordination of High Reliability Networks (HRNs). The focus here is on forms of formal governance, including different forms of network governance. The second objective is to develop a practice-based framework informed by structuration theory that would take into account the peculiarities and contextualities of HROs/HRNs. Focusing in particular upon the actual coordinative practices in which actors engage across organizations, we aim at substantiating research on network genesis and evolution in settings with extreme uncertainties. In the last year of the project we will compare the implementation of the German and US incident control systems. In the final phase of the project we will compare the implementation of the DV 100 in Düsseldorf with the implementation of the ICS in the Office of Emergency Management in New York City.


Commissioned by: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) 


Period: 10/2013 - 9/2017


Award Holder: Prof. Jörg Sydow


Researchers: Dr. Olivier Berthod, Michael Grothe-Hammer, in cooperation with Prof. Gordon Müller-Seitz (TU Kaiserslautern)

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