Hurricane Katrina and Organization Development: Part 1. Implications of Chaos Theory

By Piotrowski, Chris | Organization Development Journal, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Hurricane Katrina and Organization Development: Part 1. Implications of Chaos Theory


Piotrowski, Chris, Organization Development Journal


Abstract

The main tenet of Chaos Theory is that, from a conceptual-process perspective, dysfunctional systems and apparent disarray and displacement are a normal aspect of adaptation to high-stress conditions. Part I of this article presents research from the scholarly literature that supports the contention that, in large part, the disorganization of personal, social, organizational, and political systems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is part of the adaptation process of making order out of chaos. In fact, much of the empirical research from distinct areas such as disaster recovery, crisis management in business, and psychosocial aspects of stress embrace the conceptual and theoretical framework of Chaos Theory. Due to rapidly changing developments, Part II of this series, on recovery and reconstruction efforts post-Katrina, will appear as a separate paper in an upcoming issue of ODJ.

Introduction

Hurricane Katrina will redefine the term 'multiple-stressor event', a ubiquitous reference to high-impact disaster events. Although the United States has experienced major natural disasters in its history (e.g., San Francisco earthquake, Chicago fire, Mississippi river floods, Hurricane Andrew), Katrina has the un-envied status as the costliest disaster in our nation's history. The impact on human populations, infrastructure, emergency response systems and businesses can only be described as catastrophic (see Piotrowski, 2006). The implications for organizations are rather ominous. Undoubtedly, O.D. practitioners and researchers will be relied upon by private and public organizations, governmental administrations, small businesses and large corporations.

In this article I argue that the impact and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on both the physical and social environment of the Gulf coast, particularly New Orleans, fits into the conceptual framework of Chaos Theory. The disruption, upheaval, disorientation, and displacement of the personal, social, organizational, political, and systems fabric and the effort to make all things functionally normal can be rationally and soberly predicted by the tenets of Chaos Theory. If one accepts this premise, the dysfunctional nature of the way that individuals, group cohorts, and organizational systems are adapting to the devastation is part of the normal process, of adaptation and equilibrium in organizational dynamics and structure, on the road to recovery and a sense of normalcy.

To this end, I present a review of select studies from the scholarly literature with a focus on the main features of Chaos Theory and related research in the areas of the psychosocial aspects of disasters, disaster impact on individuals and organizations, crisis management, and public and governmental response in disaster. Since the recovery, reconstruction and rebuilding after Katrina remains an ongoing and controversial process, with a host of governmental reports, contentious analyses, and funding controversies being reported on each week, I decided to allow some time to pass and then examine the progress on recovery/reconstruction in Part 2 of this article in early 2007.

Chaos Theory and Organizations

Chaos theory, also referred to as Complexity science, has recently been applied to issues in management, organizational functioning, and crisis management (Dolan, Garcia, & Auerbach, 2003; Gregersen & Sailer, 1993; Overman, 1996; seeger, 2002; Tetenbaum, 1998).

The fundamental principle of complexity is that systems (e.g., organizations) tend to self-organize, in the long run; that is, organizations have unique patterns of behavior and function, adapt to continuing challenges, and strive to make order out of chaos (Maguire, 1999). Organizations function in a continuous process of convergence and divergence, stability and instability, tradition and innovation that propels them toward chaos (Anderson & Sturis, 1988; Thietart & Forgues, 1995). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Hurricane Katrina and Organization Development: Part 1. Implications of Chaos Theory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.