Management Theory of Karl Weick

Weick's theory of organization and what it can mean for your company

Karl Weick is a professor and cognitive psychologist who has made a huge impact on management theories. Weick's theory of organization has been called impenetrable by some readers, but it is equally true he developed a new way of looking at the ways organizations and leaders function and think. He called his insights "sensemaking."

Karl Weick sensemaking includes principles as simple as "fix the leak before it becomes a flood." He admonishes successful companies that focus on their success, saying they would be better off looking for flaws and problems. Catching them early enough will prevent organizations from being hit by a disaster. His theory takes into account that organizations are in a time of turbulence and fragmentation. There is no way to actually know what is going to happen. Karl Weick concepts are developed from those observations.

1. Karl Weick's sensemaking model refers to Weick's concepts of making sense of chaotic, unknowable events.

2. Karl Weick believes that managers today are faced with having to manage unmanageable situations.

3. In unmanageable situations it is more important to act than to think. The perfect solution would be to act and think at the same time.

Learn more about the management theory of Karl Weick

Although Weick's theories sound dire and forbidding, they are less so when you read his work. For instance, it is "easy" to have a one-time success; it is difficult to be a success over a long period. Short successes don't last, precisely because events happened that no one was prepared for. His thesis is that it may be impossible to be completely prepared but if you work towards looking for errors and flaws and fixing them, an unknown event might do some damage but will not wipe you out.
University of Michigan's Ross Business School, read "Managing the Unexpected," an article by Weick and co-author Sutcliffe. It will give you a taste of Weick's management theory. Wired magazine offers an interesting interview with Weick.

Test some of Weick's theory of organization for yourself

You can match wits with Weick by pitting his concepts against your experiences in business. Judge for yourself if you think his theory could work for you.

Get expert advice, help or training in Weick theory

You might think that Weick's theory of management should play a role in your organization. You can get training yourself or you could hire a consultant.
Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship is headed by Weick. It combines research and scholarly activities with programs for degree and certificate programs for students and executives. Steve Forman of Forman Consulting uses Weick's approach in his business. The website itself contains a lot of information about management and leadership.
  • There are some consultants who use Weick's theory of organization as a form of crisis management.