Resilience in High Risk Work Analysing Adaptive Performance

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: In today’s complexsocio-technical systems it is not possible to foresee and prepare for allfuture events. To cope with the intricacy and coupling between people,technical systems and the dynamic environment people are required tocontinuously adapt. To design resilient systems a deepened understanding ofwhat supports and enables adaptive performance is needed. In this thesis two studiesare presented that investigate how adaptive abilities can be identified andanalysed in complex work settings across domains. The studies focus onunderstanding adaptive performance, what enables successful adaptation and how contextual factors affect the performance. The first study examines how acrisis command team adapts as they lose important functions of their teamduring a response operation.  The secondstudy presents a framework to analyse adaptive behaviour in everyday work wheresystems are working near the margins of safety. The examples that underlie theframework are based on findings from focus group discussion withrepresentatives from different organisations, including health care, nuclear,transportation and emergency services. Main contributions of this thesis includethe examination of adaptive performance and of how it can be analysed as ameans to learn about and strengthen resilience. By using contextual analysis enablersof adaptive performance and its effects the overall system are identified. Theanalysis further demonstrates that resilience is not a system property but aresult of situational circumstances and organisational structures. Theframework supports practitioners and researchers in reporting findings,structuring cases and making sense of sharp-end adaptations. The analysismethod can be used to better understand system adaptive capacities, monitoradaptive patterns and enhance current methods for safety management.

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