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Alexander Cedergren


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Building organizational adaptive capacity in the face of crisis : Lessons from a public sector case study


  • Alexander Cedergren
  • Henrik Hassel

Summary, in English

While organizations providing critical services to society must have the ability to anticipate and prepare for foreseeable threats, they also need to develop a capacity to adapt in the face of unforeseen challenges and crises. While adaptive capacity becomes manifested in a specific situation through the concrete adaptations carried out by an organization, the preconditions to adapt exist already before a crisis occurs. However, previous research indicates significant knowledge gaps regarding how these preconditions are established and maintained within an organization. Against this backdrop, this paper aims to enhance our understanding of the preconditions necessary to adapt to an unfolding crisis. This is achieved by exploring how adaptations were manifested during the COVID-19 pandemic in a Swedish public sector organization and the factors that contributed to this adaptive capacity. A range of enabling factors for such adaptive capacity are identified, including a high level of trust between roles and organizational levels, a polycentric organizational structure where departments work autonomously while still allowing some degree of central coordination, clear overall objectives, capitalization on previous experience from both minor and major crises, and asset literacy among employees. The paper concludes by discussing some idiosyncrasies of the COVID-19 pandemic that facilitated adaptations. This includes the fact that virtually everyone was both impacted by and actively contributing to responding to the crisis. Finally, the discussion elaborates on the parallels and distinctions when compared to a creeping crisis.


  • Avdelningen för Riskhantering och Samhällssäkerhet






International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction




Artikel i tidskrift




  • Public Administration Studies


  • Adaptation
  • Adaptive capacity
  • Crisis response
  • Resilience
  • COVID-19
  • Public sector organization
  • Public administration




  • ISSN: 2212-4209