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Is Crisis Management (Only) a Management of Exceptions?

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Abstract

This paper revisits the concept of crisis within the field of crisis management and puts forward a series of avenues for building a theory of crisis that is in closer relation with the mainstream of organization theory. We suggest that if crisis management still limits itself to the analysis of exceptional situations, it might never go beyond the sphere of exception management and will for a long time remain an isolated discipline with little room for innovation and progress. As an alternative we analyze crises as a process of incubation that starts long before the triggering event. This proposition implies revisiting other related notions that have seldom been discussed by authors: first the status and place of the triggering event that should be viewed both as a fault line and a hinge between a degenerative organizational past evolution and a future of change; second, the temporality of a crisis so as to extract it from the urgency it is traditionally associated with; third and contrary to authors who see in the crisis a collapse of meaning and of sensemaking, we analyze it as a surge of meaning that fosters organizational change and transformations.

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