Sub-theme 28: Risks of Organizing and Organizing of Risks

Steve Maguire
Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Nelson Phillips
Imperial College, London, UK

Call for Papers


Are organizations, through their choices of technologies, products and processes, risky by design? How can organizations and institutions be designed to effectively assess, manage and govern risks? Papers in this sub-theme will address these and related questions by focusing on the complex relationship between risk and organizing.

Risk and its management are increasingly prominent features of organizations and their environments. Outside the organization, risk discourse frames a long heterogeneous list of societal concerns in which organizations are implicated, including global pandemics; terrorism; food shortages; financial instability; chemical contamination; and climate change among others. Theorizing of risks by scientists not only fuels this process but has also given rise to a well developed discipline, "risk analysis", that has applied this body of knowledge to a remarkable diversity of social contexts. Consequently, a notable "turn to risk" (Mythen, 2008) is evident in sociology, economics, anthropology and political science as scholars seek to understand our contemporary "risk society" (Beck, 1992). Understanding the cultures (Douglas & Wildavsky, 1982; Douglas, 1992) and systems of governmentality (Foucault, 1991) through which organizations operate requires scholarly engagement with risk.

With the emergence of our "risk society", organizations are not only seen as producers of risks borne by other actors, but they have also become bearers of regulatory, legal, and reputational risks as governments and other stakeholders increasingly target them in their efforts to manage the risks inherent in organizing. Indeed, inside the organization, the discourse of risk and its management has become a source of principles for organizing and managing in general, with important implications for how organizations are represented, managed and governed, as well as for how they respond to actors in their environment (Power, 2007). This has led to novel species of risk (e.g. operational, reputational); the rise of programs such as Enterprise Risk Management; and new organizational roles such as the Chief Risk Officer. No longer the sole purview of those working in finance and insurance, issues of risk and its management increasingly inform managerial decision making in all sectors of the economy. In fact, "ideas about risk and risk management have come to play a key role in the very idea of organizing and organization itself" (Scheytt, Soin, Sahlin-Andersson & Power, 2006: 1336).

Despite these developments, risk remains "an important but under-investigated feature of organizations in Late Modernity" (Gephardt, Van Maanen & Oberlechner, 2009: 141). Papers in this sub-theme will address this gap, exploring and illuminating the multiple connections between organizing and risk. We are interested in papers that examine any aspect of risk in and around organizations. As issues of risk often cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries, we welcome papers that draw on multiple perspectives, including organization theory, strategy, accounting, economics, and marketing. Specifically, we invite contributions that explore themes such as:

Risk and Organizational Environments: Industries, Institutions and Stakeholders

  • Institutional design for societal risk management
  • The role of risk in institutional change
  • The role of risk in technological and industrial evolution
  • Risk and involuntary stakeholders
  • Risk regulation and its consequences for organizations
  • Risk discourse and its consequences for organizations

Risk and Organizations: Organizing and Managing Risk

  • Organizational design for risk management, including risk metrics
  • Organizational processes of risk assessment and management
  • Risk and organizational sense-making; risk and decision-making
  • Risk, uncertainty and theories of organization-environment relations
  • Risk and stakeholder theory
  • Risk and theories of organizations and the natural environment
  • Risk and innovation; risk and technological design

Risk and Individuals: Enacting Risk

  • Risk and power relations
  • Risk and trust
  • Risk and identity



Beck, U. (1992): Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Douglas, M. (1992): Risk and Blame: Essays in Cultural Theory. London: Routledge
Douglas, M. & A. Wildavsky (1982): Risk and Culture. Los Angeles, CA: University of California
Foucault, M. (1991): "Governmentality." In: G. Burchell, C. Gordon & P. Miller (eds.), The Foucault Effect: Essays on Governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 87–104
Gephart, R.P. Jr, J. van Maanen & T. Oberlechner (2009): "Organizations and Risk in Late Modernity." Organization Studies, 30 (2&3), 5–20
Mythen, G. (2008): "Sociology and the art of risk." Sociology Compass, 2 (1), 299–316
Power, M. (2007): Organized Uncertainty: Designing a World of Risk Management. Oxford: University of Oxford
Scheytt, T., K. Soin, K. Sahlin-Anderson & M. Power (2006): "Introduction: Organizations, Risk and Regulation." Journal of Management Studies, 43 (6), 1331–1337


Steve Maguire Steve Maguire is Associate Professor of Strategy and Organization in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. His research focuses on institutional and technological change resulting when commercial, scientific and political struggles intersect around social or environmental issues. He is a recognized expert on the precautionary principle as a tool of risk management, and is currently appointed to the Government of Canada Chemicals Management Plan “Challenge Advisory Panel”, which advises Health Canada and Environment Canada on the application of the precautionary principle and weight of evidence in screening approximately 200 “high priority” chemicals for health and environmental risks. He has published numerous academic articles and book chapters including articles in the Academy of Management Journal, Organization Studies, Journal of Management Studies, Health Care Management Review, Global Governance, Greener Management International, Strategic Organization, and Emergence. He co-organized a previous EGOS stream in 2008 on “Identity Work and Organizations” in Amsterdam, Netherlands; and a PDW on “Technology Evaluation Metrics” at the 2004 Academy of Management Annual Meeting.
Nelson Phillips Nelson Phillips is Professor of Strategy and Organizational Behaviour at Imperial College London where he is also Head of the Organization and Management Group. His research interests include various aspects of organization theory, technology and entrepreneurship, generally studied from an institutional perspective. He also has an interest in discourse analysis and related textual research methods. He has published numerous academic articles and book chapters including articles in the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Management Science, Sloan Management Review, Organization Science, Journal of Management Studies, Strategic Organization, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, and Organization Studies. He has also written three books: Discourse Analysis with Cynthia Hardy published in 2002, Power and Organizations with Stewart Clegg and David Courpasson published in 2006, and Technology and Organization with Graham Sewell and Dorothy Griffiths published in 2010. He is also Co-Editor (with Marvin Washington) of the Journal of Management Inquiry. He co-organized a previous EGOS stream in 2007 on “Institutions and Innovation” in Vienna, Austria.