Getting the right tools for the job: Distributed planning in cardiac surgery

Brian Hazlehurst, Carmit McMullen, Paul Gorman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Successful cardiac surgery requires having the right tools for the job, in the right place, at the right time, even in the face of unforeseen circumstances. We describe how cognitive and material resources in the activity system of the operating room enable well-defined courses of action (through preparatory configuration) while dynamically accommodating unlikely events (through replanning). Using ethnographic data from observations and video recordings in the operating room, we describe the nature of distributed planning in a bounded activity system with defined cognitive and physical resources. We describe the role of preparatory configuration for accomplishing expected courses of action, and the role of active replanning to achieve goals in the face of unexpected circumstances or events, using a specific case study to illustrate these phenomena. We discuss these findings, and their relevance for reconsidering the concept of error, from a systems perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)708-717
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Part A:Systems and Humans.
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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