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Post mortem crisis analysis: dissecting the London bombings of July 2005

Eric K. Stern (Swedish National Center for Crisis Management Research and Training, Swedish National Defence College, Stockholm, Sweden)
Edward Deverell (Swedish National Center for Crisis Management Research and Training, Swedish National Defence College, Stockholm, Sweden)
Fredrik Fors (Swedish National Center for Crisis Management Research and Training, Swedish National Defence College, Stockholm, Sweden)
Lindy Newlove-Eriksson (Swedish National Center for Crisis Management Research and Training, Swedish National Defence College, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance

ISSN: 2051-6614

Article publication date: 25 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

Taming the complexity of crisis and integrating diverse narratives and sources regarding crisis events is a serious challenge. The purpose of this paper is to present a methodology for reconstructing, dissecting, and thematically comparing crisis experiences, using the 7/7 London bombings of 2005 as an illustrative empirical application.

Design/methodology/approach

A cognitive-institutional process-tracing methodology suitable compatible with structured focussed comparison of crisis cases (Stern and Sundelius, 2002; cf. George and Bennett, 2005) is used. This cognitive-institutional process tracing and analysis strategy consists of four steps: contextualization, development of a synthetic chronological narrative, identification and reconstruction of decision occasions, and (comparative) thematic analysis.

Findings

The paper demonstrates the feasibility of applying the methodology to real-world cases in the UK and concludes with reflections about the need for contextualized, systematic post mortem crisis analysis taking into account problem and process complexity, differential crisis performances of individuals and organizations under adverse conditions, and the increasing importance of social media and personal communications devices for crisis research and practice.

Practical implications

The methodology used in this paper has the potential to improve the effectiveness of organizational learning and reform efforts in the wake of crisis experiences.

Social implications

Insights associated with the application of this methodology can lead to improved post-crisis learning and fairer accountability processes, and thus contribute to enhancing societal resilience.

Originality/value

The study not only presents an original methodology developed by one of the authors, but also provides a systematic, relatively comprehensive and theoretically informed analysis of the July 7 London bombings based not only upon the documentary record, but also upon a substantial number of interviews.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, the Swedish National Defense College, the University of Virginia Critical Incident Analysis Group, and the European Union 7th Framework Program (ATHENA project). The authors would also like to thank Denis Smith and the anonymous referees for their useful feedback and Jonatan Stiglund for research and editorial assistance.

Citation

K. Stern, E., Deverell, E., Fors, F. and Newlove-Eriksson, L. (2014), "Post mortem crisis analysis: dissecting the London bombings of July 2005", Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance, Vol. 1 No. 4, pp. 402-422. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOEPP-09-2014-0058

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited