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The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster

Karl E. Weick
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 38, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 628-652
DOI: 10.2307/2393339
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393339
Page Count: 25
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The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster
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Abstract

The death of 13 men in the Mann Gulch fire disaster, made famous in Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire, is analyzed as the interactive disintegration of role structure and sensemaking in a minimal organization. Four potential sources of resilience that make groups less vulnerable to disruptions of sensemaking are proposed to forestall disintegration, including improvisation, virtual role systems, the attitude of wisdom, and norms of respectful interaction. The analysis is then embedded in the organizational literature to show that we need to reexamine our thinking about temporary systems, structuration, nondisclosive intimacy, intergroup dynamics, and team building.

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