Principles of adaptive management in complex safety-critical organizations

Teemu Reiman (Corresponding Author), Carl Rollenhagen, Elina Pietikäinen, Jouko Heikkilä

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    60 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper contributes to safety management by bringing in ideas from organizational complexity theories. Much of the studies and the literature on organizations as complex adaptive systems have focused on how to produce new innovations or how to increase financial effectiveness. We take the view that safety-critical organizations can be perceived as complex adaptive systems, and we discuss what this means for the management of safety. Our aim is to elaborate on the issue of what kinds of principles the management of safety should be based on in complex adaptive systems. In brief, we suggest that safety management should be adaptive, building on several different principles. Based on literature on complex adaptive systems we first identify the general features of complex adaptive systems, such as self-organizing and non-linearity, which need to be considered in management. Based on the features of complex adaptive systems, we define eight key principles of adaptive safety management and illustrate usefulness of the principles in making sense of the practice of safety management.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)80-92
    JournalSafety Science
    Issue numberPart B
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • safety management
    • complexity theories
    • complex adaptive systems
    • systems thinking


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