Kathleen Sutcliffe studies high-hazard organizations and group decision making in order to understand how organizations and their members can perform more safely, reliably, and resiliently in the midst of uncertainty and dynamism. For example, Sutcliffe examines the systemic and organizational origins of medical mistakes and factors that affect the capabilities to rescue patients and untoward situations as bad things are unfolding in these high-risk, dynamic systems. Her aim is to help organizations and individual clinicians of all kinds to apply knowledge from organization theory to improve patient care.
Another area of Sutcliffe’s research focuses on top management teams and group dynamics, including information search processes, communication, and learning processes, as well as how these elements affect firm performance. Her work on organizational reliability and collective mindfulness is internationally renowned. In addition to healthcare, Sutcliffe has studied organizing in wildland firefighting teams, aircraft carriers, oil and gas exploration, and other dynamic high-risk industries.
Sutcliffe joined Johns Hopkins University as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in 2014 from the University of Michigan.