Planet Gore

Better Corporate Leaders vs. Better Regulations

An interesting take by Richard Crespin on the “Corporate Social Responsibility” blog at Forbes.com:

Halliburton’s Tim Probert testified before the Senate that the company was “contractually bound to comply with the well owner’s instructions.”  BP exec Lamar McKay said he wasn’t “familiar with the procedure on that particular well.” Frank Patton, MMS drilling engineer, who approved BP’s drilling permit, said he was never told to check if blowout preventers, the last line of defense in catastrophic failures like this, are adequate.

While the finger-pointing is disappointing on its face, it highlights something we’ve said for a while: you can’t comply your way to greatness. When compliance becomes the goal, no one takes responsibility and no one goes above and beyond.

If you want a smoking gun, here’s what to look for: Whether Mr. Probert and his colleagues at Halliburton knew to countermand Transocean’s order but didn’t, or BP knew to test the blowout preventer but didn’t, or if Mr. Patton and the folks at MMS knew they needed to check testing certificates but didn’t. Indeed, if any of a thousand people involved knew to speak up but didn’t, we’ll see that once again, groupthink conspired with a culture of risk to bring catastrophe. Unless and until leaders lead, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard, more regulations will close this barn door, but not prevent a future calamity.

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