Adding high reliability to crisis leadership

As for crisis management, the literature on leadership is largely top down (leaders direct) or bottom up (self-organizing crisis response), where networks are said to be vertical (hierarchical) or horizontal (laterally interacting leaders, official and unofficial).

We add a third category: control rooms, and not just in terms of Incident Command Centers during the emergency but already-existing infrastructure control rooms whose staff continue to operate during the emergency.

Paul Schulman and I argue control rooms are a unique organizational formation meriting society protection, even during (especially during) continued turbulence. They have evolved to take hard systemwide decisions under difficult conditions that require a decision, now. Adding this third is to insist on real-time large-system management as the prevention of major failures and thus crises that would have happened had not control room managers, operators and support staff prevented them.

More, a major reason for this high reliability management in a large socio-technical system is to ensure that when errors do happen, they are less likely to be because of this management than to have been forced by other factors, particularly exogenous shocks. High reliability management seeks to isolate the field of blame and root causes, not least of which relate to “bad leadership.”

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