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Title: Cultural readjustment in the RAF following the Nimrod XV230 crash
Author: Whitehead, Matt
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 7913
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2019
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On 2 September 2006, RAF Nimrod XV230 was on a routine mission over Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan in support of NATO and Afghani ground forces, when she suffered a catastrophic mid-air fire, which led to the total loss of the aircraft and the death of all 14 personnel on board. The subsequent Nimrod Review (Haddon-Cave, 2009) represented one of thebiggest 'triggers' for organisational change within the RAF since the end of the Cold War. Haddon-Cave (2011) described the Nimrod Review as "an exercise in 'tough love' ... bred of my admiration for the dedication and public spirit of those in the MOD, a recognition of the frustration that many felt about obstacles preventing them from doing a better job, and a belief that there was a better way of doing things". This thesis describes a longitudinal case study carried out within a large UK RAF base, RAF Waddington, in Lincolnshire, examining the "cultural readjustment" (Turner, 1978) and organisational learning of the organisation in the wake of the Nimrod crash. A mixed-methods, qualitative study was used to develop a model that explains cultural readjustment. Time 1 of this research was carried out in the immediate 18-month aftermath following the Haddon-Cave report. Uncertainty, discomfort and frustration were experienced by much of the organisation. The disruption of change and ongoing scrutiny were unsettling for some people and deemed to be getting in the way of 'doing the day job'. There was evidence of a fear of litigation and it was felt that there was insufficient leadership being given by the Military Airworthiness Authority. Time 2 of this research was carried between March-July 2016 and took the form of follow up interviews with key personnel, observations and document examination. By now, things were seen to be settling down; roles became more defined, people appeared to have settled into the new ways of doing business with regard to safety management and generally seemed to be pulling in the new direction. Time 3 was carried out between Nov 17 and May 18 and again took the form of further follow-up interviews, observations, and document examination. Safety bureaucracy was now firmly established, described by some as a "cottage industry" populated by "enthusiastic amateurs". Although Haddon-Cave was still perceived to be relevant, the emotional impact of the Nimrod crash had lessened and Haddon-Cave was seen as a history lesson for the newest recruits. The results point to a number of barriers and facilitators to change in the early days e.g. fear of litigation, risk aversion, a military culture of 'can-do', normalized rule-breaking and insufficient safety expertise. Facilitators include leadership and followership, publicity and training and an enhanced regulatory framework. As the dust settles there are ongoing disrupting factors that may make the organisation vulnerable to another disaster (e.g., churn of safety critical personnel). The study suggests that rather than 'full' cultural readjustment, organisations settle into a new quasi-stationary equilibrium which provides an 'illusion' of safety through increased safety bureaucracy (Dekker, 2014). The combined study represents a unique opportunity to investigate the cultural readjustment of an organisation over the 12-year period following the Nimrod crash.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Nimrod XV230 crash ; Organisational learning ; Turner ; Man-made disasters ; cultural readjustment after disaster ; haddon-cave ; RAF Waddington longitudinal study