Learning from BP’s Failures: Before and After The Gulf Spill

By now, you would be hard-pressed to find an individual that does not know about the catastrophic oil spill disaster in the Gulf. The onslaught of press coverage that followed the tragic disaster that killed eleven oil rig workers has forever tarnished the image of British Petroleum (BP) in the eyes of the public.

Poor operations management and an executive team that played fast and loose with safety precautions caused this devastating tragedy, and missteps in damage control by BP’s public relations team turned a tough situation into a nightmare. Rather than simply continue to drag BP through the mud, let’s see what we can learn from the situation. Over the next week, we’ll run through several crucial lessons that can be applied to any business in any industry.

LESSON: Don’t Sweep Things Under the Rug

This lesson is perhaps the most critical element of BP’s downfall. The company’s sprawling record of safety violations is extensive and brash. Committee after committee has found BP guilty of being aware of, and knowingly ignoring, numerous serious safety issues. From the Texas City Refinery explosion in 2005 to the Deepwater Horizon offshore well explosion in 2010, mismanagement and malpractice led the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to conclude that “BP has a serious, systemic safety problem in their company”.

British Petroleum

So while your business may not be responsible in the same respect as BP for the lives of your employees, you can draw a number of parallels from this situation and apply them to your circumstances. If there was a dispute between you and a supplier surrounding an overcharged or unpaid bill that has not been resolved, don’t expect it to simply go away. If you are noting a marked increase in defect alerts with your products or an uptick in customer complaints, don’t automatically dismiss them as anomalies. If a previously high-performing team is experiencing declining morale and performance is suffering, don’t expect the situation to fix itself. If you witness same-store sales declining, don’t assume the economic climate is to blame.

Bottom line: don’t expect isolated incidents to remain isolated if you just ignore them and hope they fade away. (See below!) We all know and understand the power of word-of-mouth has when it comes to shaping customer opinions.

BP Spill-Cam

Some may argue that it is simply too expensive to maximize customer service or maintain exceptional quality control standards. This is dangerous short-term thinking. Understand that building relationships and developing  a strong, positive reputation with customers over time is critical to the long-term success of any business. If you dedicate your time and resources to maintaining a quality product/service, and work to resolve issues in and out of the workplace as they happen, your business is much less likely to experience a catastrophic event when the rug eventually gets pulled out (which is almost always does).

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About Michael Dossett

Inactive since Sept. 2011

Posted on July 29, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Dude, where’s part 2??

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