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Problems in dealing with problems: how breakdowns in corrective culture lead to institutional failure

Hald, Julie, Gillespie, Alex ORCID: 0000-0002-0162-1269 and Reader, Tom W. (2024) Problems in dealing with problems: how breakdowns in corrective culture lead to institutional failure. British Journal of Management. ISSN 1045-3172

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1467-8551.12828


Although research investigating how organizational culture contributes to institutional failure has extensively conceptualized the causal factors (e.g. norms for behaving unsafely), how culture prevents such problems from being corrected is less well theorized. We synthesize theory on accidents, resilience and reliability and organizational learning to develop a conceptual model of ‘corrective culture’. This relates to distributed norms and behaviours for three interconnected elements: the detection of problems (‘identification’), appreciation of their meaning (‘interpretation’) and responses to prevent harm (‘action’). To investigate the model, and its role in institutional failure, we combined natural language processing and qualitative analysis to examine 54 UK public inquiries published during 1990–2020. Our mixed-methods analysis found that distributed malfunctions in identifying, interpreting and acting on problems cause a breakdown in organizations’ ‘corrective loops’, which enables originating problems to compound and grow (e.g. risky, unsafe or poor conduct) and cause an institutional failure. We theorize that double-loop learning is required to prevent this, whereby strong and unambiguous feedback compels organizations to acknowledge and address their problems in dealing with problems, thus enabling them to correctly identify, interpret and act on originating issues and thus prevent a spiral into failure.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author(s)
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2024 13:54
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2024 04:57

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