Wandering Through Crisis and Everyday Organizing; Revealing the Subjective Nature of Interpretive, Temporal and Organizational Boundaries

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Abstract

The results of a 6-year action research study on developing crisis management preparedness in Swedish municipalities reveal strong connections rather than sharp distinctions between crisis and non-crisis on interpretive, temporal and organizational dimensions. Confusion and debate about what is labelled as a crisis, when everyday ends and crisis begins, and who and who are not involved, may illuminate different views on what the scale, scope and inherent complexity of ‘our’ system is in crisis and in non-crisis. Crises are not only a brutal audit for the practitioners involved, but also for the scientific theories that explain crisis behaviour. Current definitions of crisis understate the subjective nature of interpretations of crisis and organizing. To better understand the muddiness of organizing, crisis management researchers might aim for portraying more feed-forward messiness in crisis study descriptions and applying less hindsight bias in their analyses. Such images could help practitioners realize that organizing is more complex and less controllable than currently might be pictured and assumed. A deeper exploration of concepts like duality, competing values and complex adaptive systems could serve both practitioners and researchers.

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