Good Example Of Case Study On Airlines And Equivocality

Type of paper: Case Study

Topic: Aviation, Captain, Crew, Aircraft, Flight, United States, Situation, Google

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2021/03/01


1. According to Karl Weick, organizations are the product of constant change in perception and the member’s interactive efforts to remain in touch with the changing reality. Unlike traditional conceptions of organizations that tend to be more statist in nature with established rules and regulations and defined power structures, Weick believes that equivocality is central to organizational life, and members need to constantly attempt to reduce the equivocality through rules and interaction.
Rules, according to Weick, serve to reduce equivocality in the case of relatively les complex issues; however, if issues are more complex, the members need to interact with one another iteratively to reduce ambiguity (Mumby, 2012, p. 122). Karl Weick’s model, when juxtaposed to the two instances in the case, brings to fore the requirement of interaction to reduce organizational equivocality.
In the fateful KLM flight that was set to take off from Tenerife airport on March 27, 1977, there were substantial barriers to communication. The captain held a position that was unassailable to questioning. There was no culture of debate and review. In such an environment, as per Weick’s model, the organization of the flight deck did not have mechanisms for cycles of double interacts when facing equivocal situations. The fate of the crew and passengers remained solely in the hands of the captain. In this situation, when an equivocal message about the state of the Pan American aircraft’s landing status was received from Air Traffic Control, no interactive mechanism occurred to reduce the level of equivocality. While the crew wondered about the message received, the Captain passed his judgment about the status of the Pan American aircraft, declaring that the flight had cleared the runway. The situation was novel and there were no prior rules about how to deal with such a situation. Combined with an absence of precedence, the lack of interactivity amongst the crew ensured that the situation remained equivocal. NO attempt was made to interact with Air Traffic Control to ascertain the exact status do the approaching aircraft. No effort was made to question the captain’s judgment. As a result of lack of interactivity, the aircraft entered the runway for takeoff and ultimately crashed into the landing Pan American aircraft. Thus, while an equivocal situation enacted itself, the absence of retained rules and the lack of enactment caused the situation to remain ambiguous. This in turn led to faulty decision making to take off, and ultimately a catastrophic crash.
In sharp contrast, when the crew of the American Airlines aircraft was faced with the enactment of an equivocal situation in the form of a noisy engine, the airhostesses conferred amongst one another to make sense of the noisy engine. In all probability, they would have asked one another about their experiences of noise in the engine. As they compared notes, the organizational retention aspects would have come to the fore, and they would have realized that the noise was out of the ordinary. Once confirmed, the crew did not hesitate to alert the Captain. The Captain took his decision to return to the base station. Once landed, the mechanics found no flaw in the suspected engine. Now, a series of interactions further occurred amongst the Captain, the engineers and the crew. The crew made their point about their gut feeling, which the Captain finally went with, despite no proof to the contrary. In the entire episode, the quality of interactivity to reduce equivocality remains memorable, right till the end, when the Captain opted for a different aircraft despite not being sure of whether his decision was the right one.
Thus, the American Airlines crew was the right example of an organization where the members constantly try to find the right thing to do amidst changing situations.
2. The language employed by the flight crew in the KLM aircraft indicates a lack of communication protocols. When the flight engineer enquired about whether the Pan American aircraft was not clear of the runway, the Captain did not enter into an interaction with the flight engineer. He simply cut off the interactive chain by declaring that the Pan American Flight had landed. The lack of interaction caused no reduction in equivocality. The language used by the flight deck was unprofessional and colloquial. Colloquial language has the disadvantage of multiple connotations. Therefore, such language, instead of reducing equivocality, would tend to add to it. Thus, the language was dangerous, as it created more equivocality rather than reducing the existing equivocality.
3. In contrast to the case study, Google is an organization that retains a dynamic and interactive culture. Goggle’s business environment remains highly dynamic. Today’s innovations become tomorrow’s obsolescence. To deal with this challenge, Google has drawn a talent pool of people from multifarious backgrounds. These people from different backgrounds interact with one another through weekly meetings in which everyone is free to proffer his ideas (Google, n.d.). Such meetings could be called ‘cycles’ according to Weick’s model. New situations could be similarly termed as environments that are enacted by the members. Rules remain precedents but remain open to questioning. Organizational memory is only a marker of what succeeded, and not a guarantee for the future. Thus, Google deals with the ongoing environmental enactment through constant cycles of interaction and resultant rule making. As a result, Google remains one of the world’s most dynamic organizations.


Google. (n.d.). Our culture. Retrieved April 17, 2005, from
Mumby, D.K. (2012). Organizational communication: a critical approach. London: Sage.

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"Good Example Of Case Study On Airlines And Equivocality," Free Essay Examples -, 01-Mar-2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 22-May-2022].
Good Example Of Case Study On Airlines And Equivocality. Free Essay Examples - Published Mar 01, 2021. Accessed May 22, 2022.

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