Programs, Architecture & Analytics

Organizational Sensemaking

Organizational SensemakingOne other important area of research focuses on processes of collective sensemaking among organizations responding to extreme events (Weick, 1995; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005). The Organizational Sensemaking perspective stresses the criticality of valid, shared situation assessments, as well as collective understandings of organizational roles and responsibilities as they unfold in a dynamic response environment.

Organizational researcher Karl Weick showed how sensemaking failures played a role in the tragic Mann Gulch fire disaster (Weick, 1993). On a much larger scale, the Katrina catastrophe represented an almost incomprehensible failure of collective sensemaking. Despite: (a) advanced information, communications, and warning technologies; (b) the existence of new high-tech facilities such as the federal Homeland Security Operations Center; and (c) pre-event scientific guidance on the likely effects of a large hurricane striking the Gulf region, the intergovernmental system failed in its assessment of the hurricane’s severity and the immense response demands Hurricane Katrina would generate.

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