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Sensemaking and Control at the Limit: The Air France 447 Disaster
Thu 1 December 2016, 14:00 – 15:30 GMT
Three research clusters have come together - Human Resource Management & Organisational Behaviour, Strategy and Decision Making, and Entrepreneurship Development and Political Economy - to organise a joint research seminar. Our guest speakers from the University of Edinburgh, Dr Tom Calvard, Prof Nick Oliver and Dr Kristina Potočnik, will give a paper entitled Sensemaking and Control at the Limit: The Air France 447 Disaster.
Air France 447 (AF447) was lost over the Atlantic in 2009 when, following a brief and transitory loss of speed indications, the crew lost control of the aircraft. Communication and coordination in the cockpit broke down and the crew was unable to comprehend what was happening in time to recover the situation. We analyze events in the final hour of the flight, observing many of the classic symptoms of a collapse of sensemaking. We note that AF447 is classified as a loss of control incident, currently the single biggest cause of airline fatalities. Within the aviation community, loss of control events have been partly attributed to a lack of manual flying and limited exposure of pilots to unusual aircraft behavior as a consequence of flight deck automation. We combine ideas from the literatures on sensemaking, automation and organizational limits to develop a conceptual model that links the ability of actors to make sense of unusual situations to the potentially insulating effect of automation and lack of exposure to situations that are close to, or beyond, normal limits. We argue that our findings help understand how the sensemaking capabilities of actors who oversee complex systems may be developed and maintained. We highlight the importance of two factors to sensemaking capability, namely a) experiences beyond normal limits and b) close, ongoing, active engagement between actors and the systems that they control.
Dr Tom Calvard
Tom is a Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School. He has a BSc in Psychology from the University of Liverpool and an MSc and PhD in Organisational Psychology from the University of Sheffield. His research is generally concerned with understanding how individuals and teams make sense of and attend to various viewpoints, perspectives, and boundaries in organisational environments. Specific interests include: diversity management; technology (e.g. Big data analytics); empathy and perspective-taking; boundary spanning; and sensemaking in organisations.
Prof Nick Oliver
Nick is Professor of Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School, where he served as Dean of the Business School from 2007 to 2012. Prior to that he spent 14 years at the Judge Business School, Cambridge, seven at Cardiff Business School and four at the Open University. Nick's research focuses on identifying and understanding the characteristics of effective organisations. He is co-author of “The Japanization of British Industry” (1992), which examined the transfer of Japanese management practices to the UK. Nick’s research has covered a range of topics, including employee ownership and commitment and lean methods and their impact on performance, particularly in the car industry. Nick’s current research is looking at the resilience of teams, organisations and supply chains and how these can withstand challenging conditions and recover quickly from trauma. He is co-director of the Edinburgh Strategic Resilience Initiative, a cross-disciplinary programme based at the University of Edinburgh Business School. He recently coauthored “Crisis, Resilience and Survival: Lessons from the Global Auto Industry" (2016), an analysis of the evolution of the global auto industry, its competitive dynamics and the resilience of auto firms, published by Cambridge University Press.
Dr Kristina Potočnik
Kristina is a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School. She graduated in psychology at the University of Ljubljana and received her PhD in Work and Organizational Psychology from the University of Valencia. In her research, Kristina is trying to explain diverse factors that determine individual, team and organizational performance, looking particularly at how creative and innovative performance can be fostered in different organizational settings. Her other research interests cover managing aging workforce and occupational health.