by Janice Brand

Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity

May 08, 20071 min

Chances are, someone, somewhere in your company knows something right now that, if kept secret, could snowball into one really big problem. How effective your company is at getting to–and acting on–that piece of information is the point of this excellent book. No one likes change, but none of us has a choice. Taking cues from high-reliability organizations (HROs), such as hostage negotiation teams and emergency medical units, the authors (both professors of organizational behavior) have garnered lessons for any company that wants to avoid not just getting blindsided by the unexpected but getting derailed by it because of top-down and inflexible management systems. Five hallmarks define the HRO, beginning with not resting on success but consistently examining failures. Included in Managing the Unexpected are case studies of companies that faltered badly as well as assessment guides to help you change your own company. You may not deal with life-and-death decision making (read the paragraph on working conditions atop an oil-slicked and seawater-washed nuclear aircraft carrier flight deck) but you’ll learn valuable procedures to help get you through the next PR disaster. Or terrorist attack.