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Extreme events, organizations and the politics of strategic decision making


  • David C. Wilson
  • Layla Branicki
  • Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor
  • Alexander D. Wilson


Purpose - Threats of extreme events, such as terrorist attacks or infrastructure breakdown, are potentially highly disruptive events for all types of organizations. This paper seeks to take a political perspective to power in strategic decision making and how this influences planning for extreme events. Design/methodology/approach - A sample of 160 informants drawn from 135 organizations, which are part of the critical national infrastructure in the UK, forms the empirical basis of the paper. Most of these organizations had publicly placed business continuity and preparedness as a strategic priority. The paper adopts a qualitative approach, coding data from focus groups. Findings - In nearly all cases there is a pre-existing dominant coalition which keeps business continuity decisions off the strategic agenda. The only exceptions to this are a handful of organizations which provide continuous production, such as some utilities, where disruption to business as usual can be readily quantified. The data reveal structural and decisional elements of the exercise of power. Structurally, the dominant coalition centralizes control by ensuring that only a few functional interests participate in decision making. Research limitations/implications - Decisional elements of power emphasize the dominance of calculative rationality where decisions are primarily made on information and arguments which can be quantified. Finally, the paper notes the recursive aspect of power relations whereby agency and structure are mutually constitutive over time. Organizational structures of control are maintained, despite the involvement of managers charged with organizational preparedness and resilience, who remain outside the dominant coalition. Originality/value - The paper constitutes a first attempt to show how planning for emergencies fits within the strategy-making process and how politically controlled this process is.

Suggested Citation

  • David C. Wilson & Layla Branicki & Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor & Alexander D. Wilson, 2010. "Extreme events, organizations and the politics of strategic decision making," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 23(5), pages 699-721, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:aaajpp:v:23:y:2010:i:5:p:699-721

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Allison, Graham T., 1969. "Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(3), pages 689-718, November.
    2. Daniel W. Greening & Richard A. Johnson, 1996. "Do Managers and Strategies Matter? A Study In Crisis," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(1), pages 25-51, January.
    3. David J. Hickson & Susan J. Miller & David C. Wilson, 2003. "Planned or Prioritized? Two Options in Managing the Implementation of Strategic Decisions," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(7), pages 1803-1836, November.
    4. Allison, Graham T., 1969. "Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(3), pages 689-718, September.
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    1. Wenchuan Huang & Shouming Chen & Luu Thi Nguyen, 2020. "Corporate Social Responsibility and Organizational Resilience to COVID-19 Crisis: An Empirical Study of Chinese Firms," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(21), pages 1-19, October.
    2. Chris Carter & Stewart Clegg & Martin Kornberger, 2010. "Re-framing strategy: power, politics and accounting," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 23(5), pages 573-594, June.
    3. Alan McKinlay & Chris Carter & Eric Pezet & Stewart Clegg, 2010. "Using Foucault to make strategy," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 23(8), pages 1012-1031, October.
    4. Layla J. Branicki, 2020. "COVID‐19, ethics of care and feminist crisis management," Gender, Work and Organization, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(5), pages 872-883, September.
    5. Lai, Alessandro & Leoni, Giulia & Stacchezzini, Riccardo, 2014. "The socializing effects of accounting in flood recovery," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 25(7), pages 579-603.

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