In the Wake of Disaster: Resilient Organizing and a New Path for the Future

  • A. Erin Bass
  • Ivana Milosevic


High-hazard organizations are unique due to their susceptibility to disasters that can have grave consequences not just for the organization but also for stakeholders, the communities in which they operate and the environment. Though prominence is placed on understanding how high-hazard organizations avoid such events, how they create a new future when such an event does occur is underexplored. The purpose of this chapter, thus, is to investigate how organizations create a new future in the wake of a disaster through resilient organizing. Using an instrumental case study methodology, this study investigates how executives at British Petroleum (BP), a high-hazard organization, embodied resilient organizing following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We show how resilient organizing helped BP bounce back and beyond by learning from the disaster, finding resolve, refocusing and experiencing transformation through action. In doing so, BP endeavored to prepare for, build, cultivate and commit to a new future. Insights from this research point to resilient organizing as a promising strategy for creating a new future and suggest future avenues for research on resilient organizing in high-hazard contexts and beyond.


  1. Aldrich, Howard, and Diane Herker. 1977. Boundary Spanning Roles and Organization Structure. Academy of Management Review 2 (2): 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, Albert. 1990. Perceived Self-Efficacy in the Exercise of Control over AIDS Infection. Evaluation and Program Planning 13: 9–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barr, Pamela S., J.L. Stimpert, and Anne S. Huff. 1993. Cognitive Change, Strategic Action and Organizational Renewal. Strategic Management Journal 13 (S1): 15–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barreto, Ilídio. 2010. Dynamic Capabilities: A Review of Past Research and an Agenda for the Future. Journal of Management 36 (1): 256–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bohn, James G. 2002. The Relationship of Perceived Leadership Behaviors to Organizational Efficacy. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 9 (2): 65–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carroll, John S. 1998. Organizational Learning Activities in High-Hazard Industries: The Logics Underlying Self-Analysis. Journal of Management Studies 35 (6): 699–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carroll, John S., Jenny W. Rudolph, and Sachi Hatakenaka. 2002. Learning from Experience in High-Hazard Organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior 24: 87–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen, Ming-Jer, and Danny Miller. 2015. Reconceptualizing Competitive Dynamics: A Multidimensional Framework. Strategic Management Journal 36 (5): 758–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Creswell, John W. 2012. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Daniel, Francis, Franz T. Lohrke, Charles J. Fornaciari, and R. Andrew Turner. 2004. Slack Resources and Firm Performance: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Business Research 57 (6): 565–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis, Jason P., Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, and Christopher B. Bingham. 2009. Optimal Structure, Market Dynamism, and the Strategy of Simple Rules. Administrative Science Quarterly 54 (3): 413–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Foss, Nicolai J., Jacob Lyngsie, and Shaker A. Zahra. 2013. The Role of External Knowledge Sources and Organizational Design in the Process of Opportunity Exploitation. Strategic Management Journal 34 (12): 1453–1471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gaba, David M. 2000. Structural and Organizational Issues in Patient Safety: A Comparison of Health Care to Other High-Hazard Industries. California Management Review 43 (1): 83–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gnyawali, Devi R., and Ravindranath Madhavan. 2001. Cooperative Networks and Competitive Dynamics: A Structural Embeddedness Perspective. Academy of Management Review 26: 431–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hannah, Sean T., Mary Uhl-Bien, Bruce J. Avolio, and Fabrice L. Cavarretta. 2009. A Framework for Examining Leadership in Extreme Contexts. The Leadership Quarterly 20 (6): 897–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Helfat, Constance E., and Jeffrey A. Martin. 2015. Dynamic Managerial Capabilities: Review and Assessment of Managerial Impact on Strategic Change. Journal of Management 41 (5): 1281–1312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ingersoll, Christina, Richard M. Locke, and Cate Reavis. 2012. BP and the Deepwater Horizon Disaster of 2010. MIT Sloan Management Case Collection 10 (110): 1–28.Google Scholar
  18. Kobasa, Suzanne C., Salvatore R. Maddi, and Stephen Kahn. 1982. Hardiness and Health: A Prospective Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42 (1): 168–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. LaPorte, Todd R., and Paula M. Consolini. 1991. Working in Practice but Not in Theory: Theoretical Challenges of ‘High-Reliability Organizations. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: J-PART 1 (1): 19–48.Google Scholar
  20. Lengnick-Hall, Cynthia A., Tammy E. Beck, and Mark L. Lengnick-Hall. 2011. Developing a Capacity for Organizational Resilience Through Strategic Human Resource Management. Human Resource Management Review 21 (3): 243–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Limnios, Mamouni, Elena Alexandra, Tim Mazzarol, Anas Ghadouani, and Steven G.M. Schilizzi. 2014. The Resilience Architecture Framework: Four Organizational Archetypes. European Management Journal 32 (1): 104–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lozano, Juan A. 2010. Tar Balls in Texas Mean Oil Hits All 5 Gulf States. The Associated Press, July 6.
  23. Luthans, Fred, Carolyn M. Youssef, and Bruce J. Avolio. 2007. Psychological Capital: Investing and Developing Positive Organizational Behavior. In Positive Organizational Behaviour, ed. D. Nelson and C. Cooper. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Madsen, Peter M. 2008. These Lives Will Not Be Lost in Vain: Organizational Learning from Disaster in U.S. Coal Mining. Organization Science 20 (5): 861–875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Margolis, Joshua D., and Paul G. Stoltz. 2010. How to Bounce Back from Adversity. Harvard Business Review 88 (1–2): 86–92.Google Scholar
  26. Meyer, Alan D. 1982. Adapting to Environmental Jolts. Administrative Science Quarterly 27 (4): 515–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meyer, Alan D., Vibha Gaba, and Kenneth A. Colwell. 2005. Organizing far from Equilibrium: Nonlinear Change in Organizational Fields. Organization Science 16 (5): 456–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Milosevic, Ivana, A. Erin Bass, and Gwendolyn Combs. 2016. The Paradox of Knowledge Creation in a High-Reliability Organization: A Case Study. Journal of Management doi: 0149206315599215.Google Scholar
  29. Osborn, Richard N., James G. Hunt, and Lawrence R. Jauch. 2002. Toward a Contextual Theory of Leadership. The Leadership Quarterly 13 (6): 797–837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Perrow, Charles. 1984. Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  31. Quinn, Ryan W., and Monica C. Worline. 2008. Enabling Courageous Collective Action: Conversations from United Airlines Flight 93. Organization Science 19 (4): 497–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Radzevick, Joseph R., and Don A. Moore. 2011. Competing to Be Certain (But Wrong): Market Dynamics and Excessive Confidence in Judgment. Management Science 57 (1): 93–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Raisch, Sebastian, Julian Birkinshaw, Gilbert Probst, and Michael L. Tushman. 2009. Organizational Ambidexterity: Balancing Exploitation and Exploration for Sustained Performance. Organization Science 20 (4): 685–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Roberts, Karlene H. 1989. New Challenges in Organizational Research: High Reliability Organizations. Organization & Environment 3 (2): 111–125.Google Scholar
  35. Rouse, Michael J, and Charlene Zietsma. 2008. Responding to Weak Signals: An Empirical Investigation of Emergent Adaptive Capabilities. OLKC 2008, The International Conference on Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities. Copenhagen, Denmark.Google Scholar
  36. Schilke, Oliver. 2014. On the Contingent Value of Dynamic Capabilities for Competitive Advantage: The Nonlinear Moderating Effect of Environmental Dynamism. Strategic Management Journal 35 (2): 179–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stake, Robert E. 1995. The Art of Case Study Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  38. Strauss, Anselm, and Juliet Corbin. 1994. Grounded Theory Methodology. Handbook of Qualitative Research 17: 273–285.Google Scholar
  39. Uhl-Bien, Mary, and Russ Marion. 2009. Complexity Leadership in Bureaucratic Forms of Organizing: A Meso Model. The Leadership Quarterly 20 (4): 631–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Van Der Vegt, Gerben S., Peter Essens, Margareta Wahlström, and Gerard George. 2015. Managing Risk and Resilience. Academy of Management Journal 58 (4): 971–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Voss, Glenn B., Deepak Sirdeshmukh, and Zannie Giraud Voss. 2008. The Effects of Slack Resources and Environmental Threat on Product Exploration and Exploitation. Academy of Management Journal 51 (1): 147–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wang, Heli, Jaepil Choi, Guoguang Wan, and John Qi Dong. 2016. Slack Resources and the Rent-Generating Potential of Firm-Specific Knowledge. Journal of Management 42 (2): 500–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Weick, Karl E. 2010. Reflections on Enacted Sensemaking in the Bhopal Disaster. Journal of Management Studies 47: 537–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weick, Karl E., and Karlene H. Roberts. 1993. Collective Mind in Organizations: Heedful Interrelating on Flight Decks. Administrative Science Quarterly 38 (3): 357–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Weick, Karl E., and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. 2011. Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty. Vol. 8. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  46. Weick, Karl E., Kathleen M. Sutcliffe, and Davide Obstfeld. 2008. Organizing for High Reliability: Processes of Collective Mindfulness. Crisis Management 3 (1): 81–123.Google Scholar
  47. Williams, Trenton A., Daniel A. Gruber, Kathleen M. Sutcliffe, Dean A. Shepherd, and Eric Yanfei Zhao. 2017. Organizational Response to Adversity: Fusing Crisis Management and Resilience Research Streams. Academy of Management Annals 11 (2): 733–769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Youssef, Carolyn M., and Fred Luthans. 2007. Positive Organizational Behavior in the Workplace. Journal of Management 33 (5): 774–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Erin Bass
    • 1
  • Ivana Milosevic
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Nebraska OmahaOmahaUSA
  2. 2.College of CharlestonCharlestonUSA

Personalised recommendations