A Look into Sully


A look into Sully full paper: a-look-into-sully-paper

On average, every day more than eight million people fly (IATA, 2013). Many have said they do not like flying.  It is automatically assumed that the reason for that is because of a fear of heights. However, due to recent horrifying tragedies such as 9/11, or even the deadly shooting that happened at Fort Lauderdale airport, multiple people would say they are afraid of airports and flying because of what could happen at the hands of others surrounding them. Whether those hands are the pilot, flight attendants, airport employees, or other travels. The 2016 film, Sully, based on a true story, is about United airlines pilot, Captain Sully Sullenberger, who landed his plane in New York’s Hudson River after birds blew out his engines, while only being two thousand feet in the air. Captain Sully saved all 155 lives that were on the plane. While he was proclaimed as a hero, he faced public and media attention after the crash. For my organizational communication textual analysis project, I conducted a textual analysis of the film to explore how airlines use Systems Approach Theory while handling crisis management, as well as how airlines approach affects their customers. The film, Sully gives an understanding to how an airline employee should handle themselves during a crisis.

Crisis management should involve the application of strategies designed to help an organization deal with a sudden and significant negative event (What, 2013). It is best for an organization to not avoid crisis management preparation, because every organization is vulnerable to it. The 10 Steps to Crisis Communications states that if an organization does not prepare for a crisis, more damage may occur (Bernstein, 2016). Many airlines have developed organizational structures, such as System Approach Theory, to assist their employees with crisis management. It is believed that if certain protocol is followed, the crisis could be less damaging.

The prevention, response, and recovery phases are all important components of crisis management. Systems Approach Theory can be a strong factor in the prevention stage of crisis management. When systems approach is performed correctly, it leads to a better response/recovery phase.

Literature Review

 According to Eisenberg et, al, (2010), Systems Approach emphasizes the difference between a disconnected set of parts and a collection of parts that work together to create a functional whole. No matter if the organization is an airline, car dealership, or a healthcare environment, all organizations could benefit from Systems Approach. Baur et al, (2013) all used Systems Approach for their health literacy research. The scholars discovered that System Approach helps healthcare organizations “connect the dots” to improve health literacy and person-centeredness in their organization (p. 3).

Richard Riegelman (2013) believes Systems Approach in commercial airlines has been credited with reducing deaths, despite the rapidly increasing number of passengers’ miles flown each year. Riegelman describes a system approach as a way to examine the multiple influences on a problem, isolate the interaction of these influences, identify bottlenecks and leverage points, and look for changes over time. While the article, Why we need a systems approach to prevent deadly medical errors agrees that by using the system approach through software to identify and alert pharmacists to serious drug interactions, the number of deaths each year from medical errors could decrease (ACP, 2017).

While it has been confirmed that system approaches do indeed help organizations maintain their business and decrease crisis management. The main question is what does a system approach consist of? Eisenberg et, al (2010) all described a system as “a complex set of relationship among interdependent components or parts” (p. 79). The relationship that exist among people are what makes the group a system. A breakdown of a system includes environment and open systems, interdependence, goals, processes and feedback, and openness, order, and contingency. They found the environment and open systems component requires members spending significant amounts of time engaging in environment scanning, government scanning, and new technologies. Without one doing so, they felt the organization could be put in jeopardy due to unexpected environmental situations. The interdependence stage explains that no part of a system can stand alone, each part of any system must rely on another part for a job to be effective (Eisenberg, Goodall, & Trethewey, 2010).

While the environment and open system and interdependence component focuses on how to keep a system maintaining. The goals, processes and feedback, and openness, order, and contingency components all focus on the outcome of those components. Eisenberg et, al (2010) imply that in the goals component, goals are central. In this stage, system theory emphasizes that what is good for one level of a system, may not be good for another. In the processes and feedback component, they implied that negative and positive feedbacks are great for any organization. Negative feedback requires an organization to establish strategy or course of action, while positive feedback ensures those same courses of action are considered (Eisenberg, Goodall, & Trethewey, 2010). The final component of system approach, openness, order, and contingency is all about equifinality. This means the same goals may be reached in multiple ways. There is no right or wrong way if the same goals are accomplished. Recognition of these various components is important for an organization to survive.

Systems approach theory is a complex process with multiple stages that requires attention and interaction from the members of the organization. System approach theory is one of the most important theories in management. Chron (2017) describes systems approach as “an efficient system that provides an orderly plan of action with personnel having clearly defined responsibilities that overlap and interlock to ensure that absence of a member results in minimal loss of productivity.


After watching the film, Sully, thoroughly and conducting multiple research on the Systems Approach Theory,  I have provided a theoretical framework and a methodology to determine how organizations, such as airlines apply the Systems Approach Theory while dealing with a crisis.



ACP Internist. (2017). Why we need a systems approach to prevent deadly medical errors. Retrieved from http://www.acpinternist.org/archives/1999/11/systems.htm

Bernstein, Jonathan. (2016). The 10 Steps of Crisis Communications. Retrieved fromhttp://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/the-10-steps-of-crisis-communications/

Chron. (2017). Importance of the System Approach Principle. Retrieved from http://small business.chron.com/importance-system-approach-principle-81413.html

Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th Edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

IATA. (2013, December 13). New Year’s Day 2014 marks 100 Years of Commercial Aviation. Retrieved from http://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2013-12-30-01.aspx

Koh, H.K., Baur, C., Harris, L.M., & Rowden, J. N. (2013, January). Towards a SystemApproach to Health Literacy Research. Journal of Health Communication. pp. 1-5. doi:10.1080/10910730.2013.759029

What Is. (2013, October). Crisis Management. Retrieved from http://whatis.techtarget.com/Definition/crisis-management.








Author: Dekira Hemingway

Twenty-three | Travel Addict | Queens University of Charlotte graduate student

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