Document Type



This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only


Business and Management.

Publication Details

Production and Operations Management,

Volume28, Issue9

September 2019

Pages 2323-2337


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the learning from rare events and the knowledge management processinvolved, which presents a significant challenge to many organizations. This is primarily attributed to the inability tointerpret these events in a systematic and “rich” manner, which this paper seeks to address. We start by summarizing therelevant literature on humanitarian operations management (HOM), outlining the evolution of the socio-technical disasterlifecycle and its relationship with humanitarian operations, using a supply chain resilience theoretical lens. We then out-line theories of organizational learning (and unlearning) from disasters and the impact on humanitarian operations. Subse-quently, we theorize the role of middle managers in humanitarian operations, which is the main focus of our paper. Themain methodology incorporates a hybrid of two techniques for root cause analysis, applied to two related case studies.The cases were specifically selected as, despite occurring twenty years apart, there are many similarities in the chain ofcausation and supporting factors, potentially suggesting that adequate learning from experience and failures is not occur-ring. This provides a novel learning experience within the HOM paradigm. Hence, the proposed approach is based on amultilevel structure that facilitates the operationalization of learning from rare events in humanitarian operations. Theresults show that we are able to provide an environment for multiple interpretations and effective learning, with emphasison middle managers within a humanitarian operations and crisis/disaster management context.