The logic of tact: How decisions happen in situations of crisis

Kornberger, Martin and Leixnering, Stephan and Meyer, Renate (2019) The logic of tact: How decisions happen in situations of crisis. Organization Studies, 40 (2). pp. 239-266. ISSN 1741-3044


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The mass-migration of refugees in the fall 2015 posed an immense humanitarian and logistical challenge: exhausted from their week-long journeys, refugees arrived in Vienna in need of care, shelter, food, medical aid, and onward transport. The refugee crisis was managed by an emerging polycentric and inter-sectoral collective of organizations. In this paper, we investigate how, during such a situation, leaders of these organizations made decisions in concert with each other and hence sustained the collective's capacity to act collectively. We ask: what was the logic of decision-making that orchestrated collective action during the crisis? In answering this question, we make the following contribution: departing from March's logics of consequences and appropriateness as well as Weick's work on sensemaking during crisis, we introduce an alternative logic that informed decision-making: the logic of tact. With this concept we (a) offer a better understanding of how managers make decisions under the condition of bounded rationality and the simultaneous transgression of their institutional identity in situations of crisis; and we (b) show that in decision-making under duress cognition is neither ahead of action, nor is action ahead of cognition; rather, tact explicates the rapid switching between cognition and action, orchestrating decision-making through this interplay.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: capacity to act, collective action, crisis, decision-making, logic of tact, sensemaking, logic of appropriateness, logic of consequences, logic of tact
Divisions: Departments > Management > Organization Studies
Forschungsinstitute > Urban Management and Governance
Forschungsinstitute > Urban Management and Governance > Meyer
Version of the Document: Accepted for Publication
Depositing User: Gertraud Novotny
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2019 14:23
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2019 14:25
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