Worth a Second Look? Exploring the Power of Post-Mortems on Post-Mortems

Worth a Second Look? Exploring the Power of Post-Mortems on Post-Mortems

Handbook of Qualitative Organizational Research. New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis, December
2015

In a reflective moment during his brief but crisis-prone presidency, the late President John F. Kennedy once observed:

The essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer—often, indeed, to the decider himself… . There will always be the dark and tangled stretches in the decision-making process—mysterious even to those who may be most intimately involved. (quoted in Allison & Zelikow, 1999, p. i)

Kennedy’s observation notwithstanding, organizational scholars have afforded considerable attention to explicating the antecedents of organizational decisions, especially those that have proven particularly catastrophic or costly (Janis, 1982). The aim of such research is to shed light on precisely those dark and tangled stretches where consequential decisions are evaluated and executed—with sometimes disastrous effects.