The weather report stated there would be rain with the wind direction, speed and gust at 23mph. You would think that surely, one would have an umbrella and a coat on for the wind at least. Maybe one was being illogical and in denial but I left my house in the morning wearing a skirt suit that did nothing to protect me from the wind. I was not the only one but that didn’t detract from the fact that I had acted foolishly despite knowing the consequences would be chattering teeth and goosebumps.
In reality, some of the decisions we make as leaders are as illogical and damning as going out without proper protection when all signs point to a great chance of rain/wind. We often sacrifice the common sense on the altar of the “go fever”. Sometimes, we are able to recover from the consequences and learn lessons. Other times, the consequences are so great that lives are lost and in hind sight, it is clear that the risk should have either been heavily mitigated or avoided altogether.
This reminds me of the US Space Shuttle Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986 when the space shuttle exploded mid air 73 seconds into its flight killing all 7 crew member. The effect of the disaster was further heightened when it was revealed that contractor Engineers from Morton-Thiokol had expressed concerns about the low temperatures being forecasted. They recommended the flight be postponed as repercussions for going ahead could spell disaster for all concerned.
As we know now, the recommendation was overruled and NASA forged ahead with plans to launch the shuttle despite the great risk to lives. 73 seconds was all it took and a disaster that could be averted occurred with lingering and painful consequences. For more details, you could read a transcript of the Freakonomics podcast on Freakonomics blog which chronicles the event in more detail than I have written. I particularly like how they explain that the Challenger disaster “was repression of consequences that you didn’t want to have to deal with because it would’ve been so inconvenient”.
Hind sight is indeed 20/20 but the question I pose today is this: how can you convince stakeholders not to forge ahead with executions or actions that pose a great risk of disaster? Please leave your comments below.
Have a lovely day people!