Lessons Learned from BP Disaster – What to change and improve?

As I reflect on the BP disaster and how it will change the way not only BP does business but other companies as well, I worry that the response will be overly “thing” versus “people” focused. What I mean by that is we will be quick to address the problem with more  rules, procedures, checks and controls.  We’ll provide more information, more tools and more technology.

Information pushers will be quick to say “we just need more information.” Process gurus will want to re-engineer the process.  Technologists will suggest building bigger and more complex systems.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has noted on more than one occassion that BP lacked the “tools” to deal with situaitons like this.

It’s not that I’m against adding a few more checks and balances or that I don’t appreciate the value of information and technology.  It’s just that we seem to be overlooking a really important element here – namely people!

At every step of the way prior to, in the midst of the blowout, and in the clean-up efforts, decision making (by humans) stands front and center.  There was no shortage of information about BPs safety record, so one could argue that it’s not about adding more measures but ensuring the people looking at those measures are paying attention to the right things and acting when they need to.

The information technology that supports a deep water drilling rig is mind-boggling. 3D and now 4D seismic surveys, MWD (measurement while drilling) tools, and data transfer at rates unheard of.  I’m not an expert here, but I’m guessing the issue is not one of information or technology, but rather one of making sense of it and being able to use it to make the right decisions.

For my money, I vote to focus on better enabling human beings to make sense of data and make better decisions. From a lessons learned perspective, let’s look at critical decisions throughout the debacle and try to decipher what went wrong.  Let’s look at signals missed or misinterpreted, what people chose to pay attention to and what they filtered out and why.  Let’s look at cultural and communication variables and how these influenced decisions.

We may ultimately end up at the same place, with more rules, more information and more tools, but at least we will ensure that these “things” have some connection to the people that use them.

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One Response to “Lessons Learned from BP Disaster – What to change and improve?”

  1. nick milton says:

    Re \"let’s look at critical decisions throughout the debacle and try to decipher what went wrong.\"

    Rest assured, that will be done, and in great detail!

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