Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hayward and Congress

I have been watching the live interrogation of Tony Hayward. Love him or hate him, you have to give the man props for not letting the Congresscritters stampede him into making any admissions to satisfy their need to conduct a crucifixion. Whether coached by lawyers, or simply reflecting a British approach to dealing with such issues, he stuck to his script, stating that he would not draw conclusions until the investigations were done, and he pointed out there are 3 such investigations underway; BP, the Maritime Board, and the Presidential commission.

Of course his non-answers drove them all crazy and they have dismissed him as being non-responsive. The Congresscritters, while clearly having learned the lingo, apparently are not familiar with how most large organizations manage operational issues. Or they are familiar and don't care because it wouldn't be good theater. I would not expect any CEO of an oil company to have intimate knowledge of day to day operational issues as they occur. In a world in which the emphasis is on empowering the people with the knowledge to make the decisions it appears BP was acting consistently within that paradigm. Unless Congress intends for CEOs everywhere to sign off on daily operational decisions, there is nothing unusual here.

Remember Challenger? A combination of poor judgement and unforeseen meteorological variables led to that tragedy. Human factors were a huge part of this, driven by a cultural mindset that made it difficult to stop the process to launch the shuttle. I suspect we will find a similar issue with BP, despite Mr. Hayward's commitment to safety.

Regarding BP's OSHA violations; much has been made of it by many, self included, however a closer read of the record shows that the violations are related to refinery activities, not drilling. I am not suggesting there aren't problems with rigs, however right now, according to Hayward's testimony, BP currently has no development rigs at work. All of their remaining wells are in production and thus 'secure' (he may have meant GOM wells only). The DWH incident may point to an ongoing cultural mindset that has yet to integrate a safety mindset fully into its culture.

Waxman is pushing for a date when BP's investigation will be completed. Apparently the BOP is under scrutiny and until it is retrieved from the sea floor the BP investigation won't be over.

Apparently there is a desire to get the lower level folks brought into the conversation and subject them to the Congressional process. BP may support that, but it is not clear if it will happen.

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