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Risk and Organizational Networks: Making Sense of Failure in the Division of Labour

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Risk Management
Issue number4
Volume10
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)235-256
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Recent crises have implicated organizational networks, rather than individual, unitary organizations, suggesting that the network rather than the single organization is the appropriate unit of analysis for understanding risk. It is the division of labour across organizational boundaries that appear to be especially threatening. This study investigated how sense is made of the risk that arises from this division of labour, analysing journalistic commentary on two iconic cases in the UK: the Hatfield derailment and the Sudan 1 food contamination scandal. In both cases it was the nature of networks that was central to most explanations of the events that took place, and in both cases it was the societal perception of risk that was more consequential than the objective physical harm. The main conclusion from the analysis was that this sensemaking was ambivalent about organizational networks – seeing advantages as well as drawbacks, and indicating that the main problem was not the choice of how to divide labour but to ensure that the chosen division was rigorously developed and maintained.