Systematic failure despite “perfect” systems


As my frequent readers know, I’m a keen sailor, and spend quite a lot of time at sea, in various types of vessels, ranging from high performance dinghies over yachts  to cruise ships.  I’ve also got a Maritime Deck Officer Class VIII Exam, so I like to think I know a bit about navigation and ship handling in general.

Professionally, I like to think I know a thing or two about “systems” and technology, as well as about organization, leadership and management.

With that background stated, I must say that reading this accident report on the Costa Concordia accident, I really don’t know whether to laugh or weep:  weep because of the tragedy of 32 casulties, laugh because the almost Kafka’nesc absurdity of the situation,  incompetence combined with a large degree of hubris,  demonstrated by (as well as within!) the attached document…. As someone wise said:

“confidence is not the same thing as competence”

There are so many grave errors commited onboard Costa Concordia,  systemic errors  –  in execution, communication, management, organization, and leadership –  that I can’t even bother to start listing them.

Despite having the “latest and greatest” equipment onboard this very modern ship, and despite having certificates, procedures and checklists for everything and his mother, they still manage to almost deliberately – to show off! –  put themselves into a disastrous situation that could have been easily avoided by a more well functioning truly professional bridge (management) team.

The bottom line, from my point of view, to be learned from the story of Costa Concordia, is that it really doesn’t help having the “best” and most “modern” equipment and technology, or the most stringent and comprehensive check-lists, certifications and procedures, unless your staff are able to  understand, analyze and communicate what’s going on, and able to act effectively and autonomously on that information.

Unfortunately, I see similar patterns of risk for failure in many large organizations where mgmt, relentlessly pursuing shareholder value,  believes that “with perfect processes, tools and controls we can employ low cost (or otherwise illsuited)   human automations to get the job done”….

But don’t trust my opinion, read the doc and see for yourself.

And, since I just returned from a Mediterranean cruise with another cruise line (not Costa), where everyone in crew –  asop to the Costa Concordia case –  at least could communicate in the “corporate language” (English), and where the Captain conducted several stringent crew safety drills under the week I was onboard:

It will be very unlikely that I would ever put my foot on a Costa ship, despite any price tag offered.

About swdevperestroika

High tech industry veteran, avid hacker reluctantly transformed to mgmt consultant.
This entry was posted in Grandiosity, Leadership, Management, Organization and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Systematic failure despite “perfect” systems

  1. tevirselrahc says:

    Well, Costa Cruise Lines is a subsidiary of Carnival – and you do need clowns in a carnival…

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