When Sugar Turns to Sh%&: Immediate Action Decision Making and Resilience in High Reliability Teams



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Organizational scholars have long been interested in organizations which exemplify high reliability. While such organizational studies have provided valuable clues to the ways in which such organizations form and function, this paper argues that a more nuanced study of high reliability processes within team contexts is warranted. This study focuses on organizational teams which are faced with the challenges of maintaining high levels of reliability. Of particular interest is how teams manage adverse events which disrupt the team's process and how they make adaptations immediately to restore their functionality. In my dissertation, I: (1) explore the existing literature surrounding high reliability organization and resilience, (2) present a qualitative analysis of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams to explore and identify factors surrounding adaptation within the critical moment, and (3) discuss the implications of these factors in the theory and research surrounding high-reliability teams.

The findings of this study find strong connection with the work of Weick and serve to advance and clarify previous characteristics associated with high reliability organizing; however, by using the small group as the unit of analysis for the study additions to concepts traditionally associated with high reliability organizing can be noted: (1) controlling variability during team function, (2) accepting the value of the unexpected, (3) continuous forward motion, and (4) the role of tacit and explicit knowledge.