Crisis management and letting dead assets go

30 03 2011

What do the accidents of Fukushima and Gulf of Mexico teach us? That crisis management, at least as exercised to large accidents, has its flaws. What is common between the handling of the two situations, is that, at least to me, the ones in charge did not consider the consequences of their actions to save the asset. Because they were both focused on saving the asset. At some point the asset is dead. You have to let it go and your actions should concentrate on damage control.

Instead, people are trying to save the asset, going past that point where there is no way back – at least none with reasonable cost, incurred in money, lives and well into the future. So why do they do it? I am not sure, I can only guess. I can depict those rooms where people are sitting down trying to put together the crisis management plan. I am pretty sure, the target is to save the asset by all means and no “what if” questions are asked. The plan is laid down and the “ideal” path is carved towards the target. Any possible deviations along the way are treated to return to the predetermined path. No uncertainty is considered. The probability of failure is not assessed from the beginning to allow for measures to be taken before departing on the trip with no return.

I am sure, if the robustness of the situation was properly assessed in the beginning, if the possible alternative paths were considered from day 1, if the overall cost of each solution was calculated, those responsible would seal the well in the Gulf of Mexico before killing all the wildlife, local economy and even BP. Similarly, those in Fukushima would put the factory in a sarcophagus and mitigate the effects on the environment and the Japanese economy. Some things are so obviously out of control that only reducing the damage makes sense.

I hate to say this: but what will the Fukushima people do (and Japan as a whole indeed) if another earthquake and tsunami strikes now?

Just let the dead assets die…

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