Elizabeth Williams’s paper published in Journal of Applied Communication Research

Along with coauthors Jody Donovan, Laura Giles, and David McKelfresh, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Elizabeth Williams has published the paper “High reliability organizing through an extended crisis: A case study of a U.S. university during COVID-19” in Journal of Applied Communication Research.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations that had previously operated in low-risk conditions found themselves in environments where failure could be catastrophic. Using the framework of high reliability organizations (HRO), we analyze a specific case of a U.S. university taskforce charged with responding to the pandemic. We argue that the practices employed by the taskforce align with HRO principles, leading to two important theoretical contributions. First, this project highlights the utility of non-HROs using organizing principles reflective of an HRO framework. Next, this project extends HRO theorizing from a set of practices that prevent crisis to a set of communicative principles beneficial during crisis. Finally, the findings suggest practical implications for organizations during various stages of crisis.