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The Strategic Imperative of Psychological Safety and Organizational Error Management

  • Amy C. Edmondson
  • Paul J. Verdin
Chapter

Abstract

Despite considerable discussion in the management literature about the need for flexible strategies and agile learning organizations, many—if not most—large organizations and their strategy processes remain top-down, slow to change, and fraught with obstacles to learning. A “strategy-as-learning” approach is presented that contrasts with the dominant conception of strategy-as-planning. Conceptualizing and practicing the work of organizational strategy as a learning process implies that strategy is about developing good questions and thoughtful hypotheses to be tested through execution. This produces a mode of operating called execution-as-learning.

Strategy-as-learning requires psychological safety, which enables speaking up, dissenting, error reporting, candidly discussing risks, and practicing organizational error management. Without these behaviors, especially at the executive levels, organizations are at risk of experiencing avoidable strategic failures.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge the superb research assistance of Marie Godts, Charles Hoffreumon and Irene Ingardi (SBS-EM), the support of the Baillet-Latour Chair in Error Management at SBS-EM (ULB) and its senior research fellow Dr. Vincent Giolito, and the Harvard Business School Division of Research.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy C. Edmondson
    • 1
  • Paul J. Verdin
    • 2
  1. 1.BostonUSA
  2. 2.BrusselsBelgium

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