Developing resilient supply chains: lessons from high-reliability organisations

Emmanuel Sawyerr, Christian Harrison*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
233 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of this study is to identify the prescribed formative elements of supply chain resilience (SCR) in literature, to compare them with the unique characteristics of High Reliability Organisations (HROs) and derive lessons useful for improving SCR.

Two systematic literature reviews are carried out; one on SCR and the other on HRO which identified 107 studies and 18 papers respectively. The results from the review are presented, analysed and synthesised.


Findings suggest that, despite significant similarities in some of the proposed formative elements for SCR and the characteristics of HROs, the strong managerial commitment exhibited in HROs is absent in SCR literature. More importantly, the most cited characteristic of HROs – which is their flexible decision-making structure – is pointed out as a prima lesson towards developing resilience in supply chains.

Practical implications
A decision-making framework to facilitate flexible decision making for supply chains during crisis is presented. Further, practical lessons are pointed out from principles common to both streams of literature such as redundancy, human resource management, collaboration, agility, flexibility, culture and risk avoidance that can be implemented in supply chains.

This paper is the first study to systematically review HROs, adapt a HRO decision-making framework and also apply the Cynefin framework to SCR. This therefore provides the basis to launch further research into the use of these theories and the role of decision making in SCR creation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-100
Number of pages24
JournalSupply Chain Management: An International Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2019


  • Supply chain resilience
  • Supply chain risks
  • High reliability organisations
  • Decision making
  • Resilience
  • Cynefin


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