Sociograph - Working Paper n°6



The legacy of the theory of high reliability organizations: an ethnographic endeavor.


Mathilde Bourrier










This article looks back over two decades of work pioneered by Todd LaPorte and colleagues, under the banner of High Reliabiilty Theory (HRT). The article revisits the American roots of the Berkeley-based group and comments on its early and decisive fieldwork choices. It revisits some of the elements that emerged through the controversy around findings and implications of HRT.

It discusses the legacy of HRT and the ethographical twist given to "normal operations" studies. It further explains why the use of ethnographic and sociological methodologies gave new vitality to the study of high-risks organizations.