Humanitarian Operations; Adaptation; Decision‐making; Coordination; Sensemaking; Information
Humanitarian disasters are highly dynamic and uncertain. The shifting situation, volatility of information, and the emergence of decision processes and coordination structures require humanitarian organizations to continuously adapt their operations. In this paper, the authors aim to make headway in understanding adaptive decision‐making in a dynamic interplay between changing situation, volatile information and emerging coordination structures.Starting from theories of sensemaking, coordination and decision‐making, the authors present two case studies that represent the response to two different humanitarian disasters: Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the Syria Crisis, one of the most prominent on‐going conflicts. For both, the authors highlight how volatile information and the urge to respond via sensemaking lead to fragmentation and misalignment of emergent coordination structures and decisions, which, in turn, slow down adaptation.Based on the case studies, the authors derive propositions and the need to continuously align laterally between different regions and hierarchically between operational and strategic levels to avoid persistence of coordination‐information bubbles.The authors discuss the implications of their findings for the development of methods and theory to ensure that humanitarian operations management captures the critical role of information as a driver of emergent coordination and adaptive decisions.