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Drop your tools: an allegory for organizational studies

Author(s): Karl E. Weick
Year Published: 1996

One of the critical mistakes made by wildland firefighters during both the Mann Gulch and South Canyon fires was their unwillingness to drop heavy tools and packs as they attempted to outrun the flames. Weick points to 10 possible reasons for their unwillingness: listening, justification, trust, control, skill at dropping, skill with replacement activity, failure, social dynamics, consequences, and identity. Using tools as a springboard, Weick highlights four guiding principles that might be used to avoid mishaps: focus on relationships, use abstract concepts, bridge observations and abstractions, and express the values that matter. Although written to an academic audience, Weick’s advice has direct application to fire managers who can learn from the similarities between the two fires in order to improve safety procedures.

Citation: Weick KE. 1996. Drop your tools: an allegory for organizational studies. Administrative Science Quarterly 41 (2), p. 301-314.
Topic(s): Human Dimensions of Fire Management, Human Factors of Firefighter Safety, Decisionmaking & Sensemaking, Organizational Learning & Innovation
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 16256
Record updated: May 18, 2020