Posts Tagged ‘Vikalpa’

Japan Colloquium: Lessons for crises management

July 24, 2011

I was recently invited to write a contribution for a Japan Colloquium for the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad.

My contribution entitled ” Sound judgements must not be stifled by Crisis Management Protocols” appears in Japan’s Tragedy and Aftermath: Lessons for Crises Management, Vikalpa, Volume 36, No.2, April – June 2011, pages 81 – 118.

Sound Judgments Must Not be Stifled by Crisis Management Protocols – Vikalpa June 2011

The story is told that at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, the three reactors in operation began an orderly shutdown when the Great Tohoku quake of 2011 struck, even though the magnitude at 9.0 was significantly higher than the 8.3, the plant was designed for. But when the tsunami wave rolled in and all the 13 back-up diesel generators and all the emergency cooling pumps were knocked out, then an unprecedented and unforeseen chain of events was set in motion. It is said that the site management quickly came to the conclusion that sea water cooling was necessary even though this would render the reactors permanently inoperable. But it took a further eight hours for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) management in Tokyo to agree. In the event the meltdown of the fuel rods may have been unavoidable in any case but an additional eight hours of cooling with sea water could not have hurt. A similar story is told about Hurricane Katrina where an operating engineer had the possibility of opening some valves and preventing flooding of some areas of New Orleans but did not do so because such a decision was explicitly excluded from his authority and his superiors were unreachable.

The question that arises is whether the culture of an organization helps or hinders individual managers to make judgments at times of crisis or impending disaster? Should the site manager at Fukushima or the operating engineer in New Orleans have had to wait for higher authority as they did or should the organizational culture have permitted him to bypass the chain of command? ……

The “goodness” of a judgment can only be assessed long after the judgment itself and therefore it is the soundness of judgment which must be sought rather than the intangible goodness of a future result. But a sound judgment must also be consummated by the willingness to exercise it. 

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