Michael Krasny's Forum this morning began with a discussion of the change in CEO at BP, with the hapless Tony Hayward shuffled off to Siberia (well, Russia - but I love that!) and replaced by an earnest, blond (has to be a blond) American - he even grew up in Mississippi. The question was, does the CEO make a real difference in the corporate culture?
Speaking from many years working well below the CEO level in American big business, I'll say he does. I've always argued that the tone in any organization comes from the top. What the CEO says, and does, and expects, sets the example for the rest of the organization; this form of "trickle down" actually trickles down. What I heard from my bosses about work expectations was a reflection of what they heard from theirs, and on up the line to the top guy. When the CEO changes, the expectations change. The question is, how do they change?
There's an old saying in the tech world: you can have it good, fast, or cheap - pick two. BP's disastrous safety record, the worst in the oil industry as reported by ABC News, implies that BP management, starting with CEO Tony Hayward, regularly chose "fast and cheap." "Good" wasn't on the agenda. Will Robert Dudley change the corporate culture and move expectations toward "good and cheap" (but not fast) or "good and fast" (but not cheap)?? We'll find out. If his expectations don't include "good," BP workers will continue to die.
Yes, the oil spill is terrible, but this company kills people regularly. Thirteen died in this incident. Thirty more died in two incidents before this one. And on it goes; check the ABC News article for the awful details. I worked in the financial industry, where a focus on "fast and cheap" may have meant that someone would lose money; but nobody died. In the oil industry, people die when quality and safety aren't on the checklist. Is Mr. Dudley up to this? We'll see.