The emergence of organizational fit: applying configuration theory to the Snohomish County (WA) emergency operations center
Biermann, Jason M.
Hocevar, Susan P.
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An emergency operations center (EOC) plays a critical role during a community’s response to a disaster. Yet, little research exists that assesses the impact of the organization’s structure on an EOC staff’s performance. This thesis explores how configuration theory, which emphasizes the need for an organization’s structure to fit the situation, can help emergency managers organize an EOC’s staff to improve its performance. Specifically, it uses configuration theory to examine the Snohomish County (WA) EOC’s response to the State Route 530 flooding and mudslides incident. From that case study, three workgroups were selected, and members of each workgroup were interviewed. The results were analyzed twice, first by distinct workgroup and then cumulatively. Among the findings is the diversity of influences on the task environments of different workgroups responding to the same incident; the findings also reveal that the groups implemented aspects of more than one structure. Based on these analyses, recommendations are made to update EOC doctrine and training to focus on situational factors and flexible configurations, including hybrid configurations. And while the setting for this research is a local EOC, its outcomes reinforce the applicability of configuration theory to any organization responding to a crisis.
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