Who Didn’t Voice Their Concerns?

When you think about it, no organisational failure of any magnitude can come as a surprise. Someone, somewhere, was aware that things were not right. Yet those people either did not say anything or their concerns were ignored.   

For instance, remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster? There concerns about the equipment had been raised, but simply ignored by management. Now we have another example.

For over a week now, Britain has been reeling in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire – the incineration of a 24 storey residential building in the early hours of the morning of 14 June. At present the death toll stands at 79 but no-one yet knows whether everyone who was in the building has been accounted for. Inevitably, people are questioning, “How could this happen in this day and age?”

Perhaps that is inevitable after a disaster of this nature. Yet there are numerous other questions are being asked as well. Questions like:

  • Why had the building been refurbished with flammable cladding?
  • Why did the alarms not work?
  • Why did the fire extinguisher not work?
  • What safety precautions had been ignored that enabled the fire to spread so quickly?
  • Why had residents’ concerns not been heeded?

These all reveal the really shocking fact that this is entirely a man-made tragedy. Like the Titanic and Deepwater Horizon, it appears to have been avoidable. That is why inquiries have been set up and criminal investigations are underway.

Until the results are known, it is futile to speculate about the specifics of what went wrong. Nevertheless, one thing is abundantly clear: either no-one spoke up who should have spoken up or people spoke up but were ignored. If the inquiry is serious about preventing future disasters, this is undoubtedly a line of enquiry that needs to be thoroughly investigated.     

Indeed it is imperative that it is. According to a report in Management Today (May 2016) “Of 40,000 employees at a technology company, half felt it was not safe to voice dissenting opinions at work. In consulting, financial services, media, pharmaceutical and advertising companies, 85% admitted to keeping quiet about an important concern.” How frightening is that? The ramifications of such failures in any of those industries could be catastrophic, as my examples show.

The pervasiveness of such attitudes suggest it is the norm and make it likely that this line of enquiry may well be overlooked. Yet, that very fact makes it even more important that it isn’t. Examples like these – and even the corporate collapses that led to the 2008 financial crisis – clearly indicate the inadequacy of corporate risk assessments, and the need to incorporate such issues in these processes.

Perhaps you think it is pointless to do so, until you identify a more effective method to reverse the problem. I would argue, however, that this is readily done by creating a more organic structure for your organisation. And, the way to do that, is to adopt the ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model. This transforms your organisational culture and creates the strategic alignment you need to secure, safeguard and sustain your ongoing success. Why? Because it makes your business their business and thus ensures all your employees are fully engaged.  

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