Summary of Managing the Unexpected

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Managing the Unexpected book summary


7 Overall

9 Applicability

7 Innovation

7 Style


Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe give readers something new and useful in this book. Countless manuals explain how to plan for crises and make it sound like everything will go smoothly if you just plan correctly. Weick and Sutcliffe know better. Planning, they say, may even stand in the way of smooth processes or be the cause of failure. They base this discussion on their studies of “high reliability organizations” (HROs), like fire fighting units and aircraft carrier crews, organizations where the unexpected is common, small events make a difference, failure is a strong possibility and lives are on the line. From those examples, they deduce principles for planning, preparation and action that will apply to any company facing change. The book is not perfect – the authors overuse quotations and rely on buzzwords that don’t add much – but it addresses often-neglected aspects of management. getAbstract recommends it to anyone who is trying to make an organization more reliable and resilient amid change.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why no organization can plan for everything;
  • How “High Reliability Organizations” approach unexpected crises; and
  • How to make your organization more mindful and more resilient.

About the Authors

Karl E. Weick wrote The Social Psychology of Organizing. He teaches at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where Kathleen M. Sutcliffe is the associate dean.



Learning from High Reliability Organizations
Things you don’t expect to occur actually happen to you every day. Most surprises are minor, like a staff conflict, but some aren’t, like a blizzard. Some test your organization to the verge of destruction. You can’t plan for the unexpected, ...

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