Organizational zemblanity

Publication Type:
Journal Article
European Management Journal, 2016, 34 (1), pp. 7 - 21
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. We introduce the concept of zemblanity to organization studies to refer to the enactment of disaster when, in systems designed to impede risk, key actors nonetheless construct their own misfortune. The case of the Costa Concordia provides an opportunity to discuss organizational zemblanity. Active as well as passive behaviours by the Costa Concordia's Captain created a vicious circle of inappropriate decision-making with traumatic effects. These were complemented by structural elements to be found both in the individual behaviours of others (mainly, the vessel's first line of command) and the lack of other effective organizational controls, both in terms of structures and routines. As our discussion illuminates, there are two overarching elements in play: an excess of individual discretion and a lack of proper organizational controls. We go on to consider the significant implications for both theory and practice that flow from our analysis.
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