Life is a crap shoot whether walking down the street, driving on the highway and across the bridge, flying overhead, depending on other organizations (besides those that build cars, trucks, bridges and planes), or just plain living. We take our chances no matter how selective and careful we may be.
But the chances get riskier when dealing with any of the more risky organizations or any of the card carrying corporate members of the Devil's marriage, the unequal partnership between corporations and subservient government.
Trained as an organizational psychologist I still stay tuned to organizations and their people nearly six decades later. Recently, for instance, I was rereading a published book review of mine in which I criticized the book's co-authors' theory about how "highly reliable organizations" (HROs) should manage uncertainty in the face of hazardous operations and environment; and also their choice of organizations against which to "benchmark" their recommendations.
Since HROs presumably are less of a crap shoot I have decided to revisit their study and my review and write this essay. It overviews the nature of organizations, examines the organizations they benchmarked, reports on a cursory search for any real HROs, discusses other criteria besides reliability for judging organizational performance, and finally concludes with a commentary about organizational performance and life in general being a crap shoot at best and a hazard to humanity and the future at worst.
You might very well question why I write this essay at all, and having done so, why I chose this venue for it instead of some academic journal. The reasons are three-fold. Academic journals in my field tend to be unrealistic and esoteric. Not one of us can ever get away any day from one or more aspects of organized life. And there are times when we want a particular organization (e.g., a hospital; an airliner; etc.) to be highly reliable.
Organizations: A Sweeping but Fleeting Perspective
1. Origin. My guess is that the first collective efforts, resembling an informal organization, to achieve a common purpose appeared in the hunter-gatherer period of history. The precursor of organizations as we know them today probably arose during the industrial revolution, although some civilizations such as that of China had very defined civil organizations thousands of years ago. As a matter of fact, the Chinese probably invented the familiar bureaucratic form of administrative organization.
2. Kinds. You name them. They in all their variety are everywhere pursuing purposes that define the kinds of organizations they are.