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Journal Articles Safety Science Year : 2020

Hopkins' view of structure and culture (one step closer to strategy)

Abstract

Structure as an analytical category has a long trail of debates in safety over 40 years but has never been the topic of a dedicated study, until Hopkins’ work on the issue of centralised organisational structures. The notion of structure has had different meanings including structure as coupling and complexity (1), as redundancy (2), as self-correcting (3), as underspecified (4), as management system (5), as degree of centralisation (6), as macro social configuration (7). I come back in the first section of this article on this in order to situate Hopkins’ argument. To do so, I use the insights from organisation theory on the complex relationships between structure, culture, power, technology, goal and environment. Hopkins’ view is that “structure creates culture” which depends on the degree of centralisation (6). In a second section, I go one step further to situate Hopkins’ argument, coming back on four decades of publications in order to bring the distance needed to characterise his message, its context (in particular, its rejection of safety culture) and retrospective rational. One conclusion is that his argument allows safety research to explicitly target top management decisions while offering a sociological and practical perspective. However, to elaborate his argument, Hopkins makes a certain number of simplifications which are discussed. I finally add that structure as a degree of centralisation is an opportunity to move one step closer to strategy. This complementary move is needed when one studies empirically daily operations of high-risk systems.
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Dates and versions

ineris-03319079 , version 1 (11-08-2021)

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Jean-Christophe Le Coze. Hopkins' view of structure and culture (one step closer to strategy). Safety Science, 2020, 122, pp.104541. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2019.104541⟩. ⟨ineris-03319079⟩

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