Tag Archives: BP

The Blogs Are Alive… With The Sounds Of Deception (From BP, And Others)

Do not, under any circumstances, tell a lie – of either commission or omission.  Do not stretch the truth, exaggerate, or make ___ up to get out of trouble or make yourself look good…
Do not attempt to project different images depending on whom you’re with.  People can spot inauthenticity…  Show up as yourself consistently.  Unless, of course, you are a jackass.
(Susan Scott’s “Memo to Leaders,” from her book Fierce Leadership).

Here’s the thing.  In today’s world, if you don’t tell the truth, someone is going to find out. And write it on their blog.  And then the world will know.

The Wall Street Journal reported on BP’s amazingly rosy reports coming from the Gulf Region, BP Magazine Discovers Bright Side to Oil Spill.  Here’s an excerpt of the Wall Street Journal’s take on this aproach by BP:

in Planet BP — a BP online, in-house magazine — a “BP reporter” dispatched to Louisiana managed to paint an even rosier picture of the disaster. “There is no reason to hate BP,” one local seafood entrepreneur is quoted as saying, as the region relies on the oil industry for work.
Indeed, the April 20 spill on the Deepwater Horizon is being reinvented in Planet BP as a strike of luck.
“Much of the region’s [nonfishing boat] businesses — particularly the hotels — have been prospering because so many people have come here from BP and other oil emergency response teams,” another report says. Indeed, one tourist official in a local town makes it clear that “BP has always been a very great partner of ours here…We have always valued the business that BP sent us.”
Fortunately the articles — on which BP declined to comment — don’t go as far as praising that new treat: seasonal shrimps in (crude) oil…

Well, the blogs, and the Comedy Central shows like Stephen Colbert’s, have adopted headlines like this:

BP Sends Fake Journalist to Cover the Gulf Spill

Colbert Report – Lube Job (click here to see the video).

I wish I had my full library available.  There is a passage in Frederick Buechner’s book:  Telling the Truth:  The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, that tells of the precise moment when a congregation looks up to the face of the preacher waiting for the beginning of the message.  He writes (this is definitely a paraphrase):

“And what shall the preacher tell them?  Let him tell them the truth.”

We are truly a generation starved for truth-telling, and there seems to be so little of it to go around…

“Adversity Introduces You to Yourself”

Cheryl offers: Tony Hayward, the current CEO of BP, has had a lot more media coverage than he likely ever anticipated when he took over as CEO three years ago. His comments have ranged from naïve to crass, possibly plainly offensive. It’s an interesting way to have millions of people get to know you as a leader, which is certainly the role he’s been given and must fulfill for BP at this time. So what kind of leader is he? Judging by some of his off the cuff comments, he’s not one focused on others very often. His comment, “No one wants this over more than me: I want my life back” doesn’t sound like a leader who is high in compassion for others. His more measured and likely media coached comments regarding the spill come across with far more compassionate and concern for the multiple ways damage has been done. My question is, which one is the real Tony? I’d vote for his off the cuff persona myself. How leaders respond to crises is a huge indicator of who they really are at their core. They respond from habit, default, and core values developed over a life time. To me, that’s how each of us creates our true self, with practice, focus and attention to developing ourselves over time. As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner tell us in A Leader’s Legacy, “Adversity introduces you to yourself.”   As the impact of the oil spill moves from weeks to months to years, Hayward builds his legacy each day. I wonder what Hayward is learning about himself and if he can leave a legacy worth admiration.

A Few Thoughts About Our Need For Oil

A Few Thoughts About Our Need For Oil – Prompted By The Big Rich By Bryan Burrough, And the Oil Rig Disaster in the Gulf

A few comments about oil…  First, my leanings.  I think we ought to get off of oil – as soon as we can.  I prefer some kind of clean, renewable replacement.  No, I do not know what it will be.

But, I was re-visiting The Big Rich:  The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes this past week, and was reminded of the role of Texas oil in World War II.  The Axis Powers (the other guys) used a total of 276 million gallons of oil in all of World War II.  Texas alone provided more than 500 million barrels to the Allies – more than 100 million barrels from H. L. Hunt alone.

Here are some lines from the book:

When the war was finally won, American oil was among the heroes.  The Allies, it was said, “floated to victory on a sea of oil.”
As Axis leaders acknowledged, they couldn’t compete with the Allies’ supply of aviation fuel and gasoline.  “This is a war of engines and octanes,” Joseph Stalin said in a toast to Winston Churchill in Moscow.  “I drink to the American auto indusrtry and the American oil industry.”

Now, here’s my big observation.  For all of World War II, the entire amount of oil used was less than 1 billion barrels of oil.  For all of World War II!  On both sides!  Today, the entire planet uses 85 million barrels of oil every day.  Every 11 days or so, we use as much oil as was used in the entire Second World War.  That is why we look for oil everywhere we can find it – under ground, under oceans – we need it all.  And we will need it all until we find an alternative.  Which we need to find – fast!

When the Exxon Valdez went down, the planet earth used 66 millions barrels of oil a day.  21 years later – today – we are using 85 millions barrels a day – every day.  And every teenager in America, and now every teenager in China, and India, and… dreams of having his or her own car.  And those cars will need fuel.  As Tom Friedman put it in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, the problem is not how much oil America uses.  The problem is that there are now “too many Americans.”

So many people are becoming “Americans”  (“Economic growth has become the prerogative of most people on the planet”)

As the rest of the world catches up to us, there will be more big cities needing more electricity and more cars and more oil and more…more.

It really is breathtaking to realize that we use as much oil every 11 days as was used in the entire Second World War.  And our 85 million barrels a day today will grow to 110 million barrels of oil in the blink of an eye.  I was 39 years old when the Exxon Valdez went down.  We’ve increased oil usage by 19 million barrels a day since that happened.  By the time my son is my age, we will have far surpassed the 110 million barrels a day figure.  And why is that figure important?  There are plenty of experts who say that 110 million barrels a day is it – the top – the most we can get out of the ground and ocean and use.  In other words, when we hit 111 million barrels a day, need exceeds capacity.  (And let’s say that the capacity can increase some more.  This much we know – the day will come when need does exceed capacity).

And if you know any history at all, when that happens – when need exceeds capacity —  with any needed resource, you’ve got real trouble.

I’ve Been Thinking About Ethical Responsibilities…

Do not, under any circumstances, tell a lie – of either commission or omission.  Do not stretch the truth, exaggerate, or make ___ up to get out of trouble or make yourself look good…
Do not attempt to project different images depending on whom you’re with.  People can spot inauthenticity…  Show up as yourself consistently.  Unless, of course, you are a jackass.

Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership:  A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today


I’ve been thinking about ethical responsibilities…

You remember ethics don’t you: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation. — Moral duty and obligation.  Duty…obligation. In other words this is important stuff here.

First, let me state the obvious. To put it in terms well known from the Bible, “all have sinned, and fall short…”  Including me.  And, I say with confidence but no mean-spirited intent, including you.  So, yes, we all have some work to do in this part of our lives.

But it seems to me that falling short has hit epidemic proportions these days.  I don’t know where to put the blame.  Is it the argument culture that Deborah Tannen saw coming?  (see this earlier post here).  Is it exacerbated by the constant spin required on today’s cable news, which flows from this argument culture mentality?  (see my partly tongue-in-cheek Campbell Brown for CEO! here).  Is it our lawyer-laden era, in which if anyone with any power admits fault, then the liability becomes too great?

Or is it a true, genuine, really, really alarming decline in ethical standards?

I don’t know.

But this is what I think I do know.  We have more and more mistakes being made (from the mining disaster to the Toyota problems to the oil rig disaster) where there seems to be a pattern emerging:

• a serious problem occurs;
• part of the cause of the problem is some form of negligence;
• evidence surfaces that warnings were given, but not adequately heeded;
• and then when the full disaster hits, there is some form of denial and shift of blame  (“it’s not my fault!”)

In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande describes how for most of human history, most big problems were issues of ignorance.  We really did not know what caused disease, we really did not know how to successfully treat a heart attack.  But the pendulum has now swung to the other problem:  human ineptitude is now a bigger problem than human ignorance.  We know more – we just don’t deliver on what we know.  And, as Gawande states:

Failures of ignorance we can forgive.  If the knowledge of the best thing to do in a given situation does not exist, we are happy to have people simply make their best effort.  But if the knowledge exists and is not applied correctly, it is difficult not to be infuriated.

In the latest illustration of this problem, we have a lack of transparency by BP.  They have a genuine, whopping disaster on their hands. The ripple effects are massive, from lives lost, to jobs lost, to the environment damaged, possibly on a massive scale.  But as we follow the BP response, we see the pattern I described above, and during the aftermath we discover that it has taken a lot of pressure – a lot of pressure! – to even get video released of the oil leak for scientists to study.

We all, of course, could give many more examples – from plagiarism by famous authors (there are substantial new plagiarism discoveries regarding now quite discredited author Gerald Posner) to failings of elected officials in categories too numerous to enumerate.

But it really does boil down to this:  our ethical responsibilities are not being treated responsibly.

I’ve grown fond of this phrase:  “you get what you pay attention to.” I think it’s time for companies, and organizations, and elected officials – really, all of us – to pay a lot more attention to our ethical responsibilities.

3 Business Lessons from the Great Oil Explosion/Crisis of April, 2010

News item:
So far, engineers have been unable to seal the leaks that were discovered after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Eleven rig workers are missing and presumed dead. Crude is leaking into the Gulf from three breaches in a pipe called a riser that once ran to the rig from the well under almost a mile of water. (from the Houston Chronicle, here).

The offshore drilling rigs off the coast of the United States are not required to include an “acoustic switch,” which can be triggered even from a lifeboat…
This Remote Activated Device, called an acoustic switch, is considered a weapon of last resort when it comes to sealing off ruptured offshore wells, but isn’t required on platforms operating under U.S. laws.
The Acoustic Switch’ is used by other industrialized nations, but not considered mandatory by U.S. Regulations.
(from Reuters, here).


So here’s the thing.  One of these days, something will go wrong. Really wrong. And the bigger the damage that can be caused when it does go wrong, the more important that there be back up systems, and then back up systems for failed back up systems.

And the reason we are still arguing over government regulations (safety, financial, and other) is that many companies will try to get by with the least amount of expense “required by law.”  So when they can keep some requirement out of the law, then they can get by with the lesser expense.

Until that really big thing goes wrong.

So – we come to the great oil spill, following the explosion that cost 11 people their lives, of April, 2010.  It may do little good to cast blame.  But it does a lot of good to ask “could the oil leakage have been stopped?”  And the answer might be yes.  Yes, I said might.  But – I think that BP wishes they had installed that $500,000 acoustic switch to see if it might have worked.

How much oil are we talking about making its way to the shoreline of our country?  No one knows for sure, but the experts have increased the estimate of the oil leaking out at least four times, and the current estimate could result in this spill potentially matching the 11 million gallons of the Exxon Valdez loss.  And the worst case scenario could rise much, much higher if they cannot stop the leak soon.

So, here are some lessons for people making decisions in business. And though I am thinking of the big decisions, where the consequences of something going wrong can be massive, the lessons might be valuable for us all.  (Have you ever seen a speaker not be able to get his/her technology working properly?  Have you ever been that speaker?)

1.  Expect, and plan for, the worst case scenario. Because it really, really might happen. It only took one Exxon Valdez for the environment of the Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef, and surrounding areas, to be damaged for a very, very long time.

2.  Budget for every possible back up system. Redundancy in back up systems was a necessity for NASA.  Regarding this explosion and aftermath, I heard one expert describe how the back up systems all failed (yes, they had more than one) – a truly rare occurrence, according to this expert.  But now that we know that there was one more that could have been included in the construction, don’t we all wish (from BP, down to all of us) that they had spent the extra $500,000 dollars to put it in place and give it a chance to work?

3.  Maybe the biggest lesson — regarding those folks who try to persuade us to let them build big projects, and they say “we are confident that nothing will go wrong” – don’t believe them! They mean well.  They are not intentionally misleading us.  But – they really can’t promise that nothing will go wrong.  We learned that one the hard way – again.

This is truly a tragedy, with the loss of human life, and a crisis — with the threat to the environment, the food chain, jobs along the coast – of monumental proportions.  I hope we learn the big lessons.