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Organizational responses to uncertainty in the airline industry: Changes in patterns of communication networks

Saul Rubinstein, Carlos Martin-Rios, Niclas Erhardt, Jody Hoffer Gittell and Varghese P. George

Journal of Air Transport Management, 2016, vol. 57, issue C, 217-227

Abstract: Changing environmental conditions introduce uncertainty into organizational operations, and airlines respond in various ways. Scholars traditionally explore responses to environmental uncertainty by drawing upon theories of communication networks, coordination, organizational resilience, and high reliability organizing. Yet, the research has competing communication predictions, which makes planning and designing organizational responses challenging, as the level and type of uncertainty changes over time. Research also does not address variations in responses across different groups of employees. Using longitudinal network data from the United Airlines operations tower in Newark Airport (USA), this research examines communication for the purpose of relational coordination in a dynamically adaptive organizational network. Results reveal different patterns of organizational communication as different employee groups (frontline, cross-functional boundary spanners, and managers) face varying conditions of uncertainty. This paper concludes with theoretical contributions and practical recommendations for managing complex communication networks to respond to dynamic conditions of uncertainty in the airline operations settings.

Keywords: High reliability organizations; Relational coordination; Problem solving; Uncertainty; Resilience; Cross-functional boundary spanners; Social network analysis (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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