Interesting article on the Costa Cruise tragedy

I saw this today, which our CEO posted as an interesting management lesson.

It opened like this (partial reprinting from the link above):

How would you react if you owned sunken ship Costa Concordia?

I have been asking myself that question all day. How would I react if I owned that ship, and employed the captain that sunk it. How would you react?

We now know how Costa Cruises would react because they issued a statement, less than 48 hours after the incident, in which they say that there may have been “significant human error” on Francesco Schettino’s part. There very well may be, but I cringed when I read it. Although understandable, people are looking for someone to blame, as an entrepreneur I would have handled it differently.

The author goes on to paint a picture of a situation where a dispute comes up involving a customer and an employee, in which customer demands firing of the employee, etc.  It’s worth a read, and it paints an interesting analog between the two situations.  In the end, he criticizes Costa for throwing the captain under the bus so fast instead of waiting out a proper investigation.

While I laud the author’s sense of fair play, I don’t consider it realistic.

The result we all saw was inevitable in my view.  Either it was the captain’s fault, in which case there’s no correction to be made, or if the company was the type that cuts corners and deprives its staff of needed equipment they probably aren’t the sort that can see or admit when they’re scapegoating without a really big court judgment by the captain’s lawsuit against them.

Top that off with the pressure they no doubt had from the board/exec staff to “resolve this and quiet the situation FAST”, if they left any uncertainty – like saying “this is under investigation” – the shareholders go berserk because market confidence in the company erodes and the executive staff / board loses $$.  Let’s face it – at best, the board and chair and execs of a company whose assets top several billion dollars are probably not known for their risky natures (as not taking immediate and decisive action would be), and at worst in their cynicism made the judgment that the cost of taking no action versus the cost of answering the captain’s possible future lawsuit left no question on the course of action.

If he did nothing wrong, I simply don’t see a possible win for the captain in that situation.

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