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January 20, 2012
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Home » Doing Good Does NOT Make you Responsible

Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, has stood before the cameras now countless times (and apparently intends to spend $10M to continue doing so: BP's new ad campaign) and promised to "make things right," in the Gulf of Mexico.  Yet no one really believes him.  Why?

Be. Do. Have.  This is the construct for building trust, demonstrating real commitment, and actual transformation.

Have. Do. Be.  This is the way most people, including BP, mis-set expectations, fail to earn trust, and fail to actually make a difference in their lives and the world.

If I HAVE programs to fix my misdeeds or encourage more responsible behavior, then my company will DO responsible things and therefore we will BE a responsible company.

This is the same thing as saying if i have a fancy camera I will take great pictures and that will make me a great photographer. 

Nope.  Doesn't work that way.  I must make a conscious decision to BE a great photographer and then DO what it takes -- take classes, practice, etc -- and then I will HAVE the ability to take great pictures.  The commitment -- the whole body commitment -- comes first, not last.  It's the being that drives the doing, not the other way around.

No one trusts Tony Hayward because he and BP have not made -- never made -- the conscious decision to BE responsible and every action they take continues to demonstrate their lack of responsibility.  Take their continued reluctance to BE transparent.  They show zero interest in measuring or disclosing the true amount of oil coming out of that well.  They release information on their repair operations on a "need to know basis."

Last week NPR science correspondent Richard Harris said, "[W]e have to remember this isn't NASA. We're not watching a spacewalk; we're not watching a launch.  This is a company whose stock value rides up and down, depending upon the ebb and flow of events. So they have some business rationale for not telling us about every twist and turn that's going on. And in fact, they end up being sometimes rather stingy with information."  (NPR Morning Edition, May 31, 2010).

Huh.  They have a "business rationale" for being stingy with information?  Maybe they have "a" rationale, but it's a terrible one.  Sure the stock fluctuates but if Tony and the gang are still running the company based on the daily stock price, that only makes my point.

Contrast this lack of disclosure with the famed Tylenol poisoning case from the '80s.  In that case the company came out very publicly and shared pretty much everything.  That case still gets taught as the text book way to handle a major corporate disaster.  Unfortunately, having read some of those text books, the take-away for many was not to emulate J&J's culture of "be responsible, hold as sacred the trust the consumer puts in you," but more "control the message, stay in front of the news-cycle."  Shame.

Contrast also the US Army's handling of Abu Ghraib.  They underwent a very public review and even more wrenching internal examination completely changing the way the Army handles prisoners.  This in no way takes away the sin of committing the acts in the first place, but the Army as an institution sees itself as a place dedicated to duty, honor, and country.  That foundational principle of honor defines a soldier and defines the response of the institution to dishonorable acts.

In both cases, Tylenol and Abu Ghraib, things went terribly wrong.  Both show that bad things and bad people can and will be visited upon even the most enlightened organizations.  But how we think of ourselves, who we think we are at our core, defines our reactions to these things and ultimately shapes how others perceive us.  No one trusts, and no one will trust, Tony Hayward because he still thinks he just needs to go in and write a big enough check, do enough clean-up stuff, and then "get his life back." 

The only way for Tony to get his life back -- short of getting fired -- is for him to take control of his life, make a real commitment to BEING responsible as a person, as an executive, and as a company.  Then BP can go DO the things necessary and then he can HAVE a better life and a more responsible company.  The first step on the road to making that commitment to BEING more responsible is to BE transparent and forthcoming.  Why isn't this like NASA?  Why isn't this like watching Apollo 13?  It should be.  Be transparent Tony.  Then we'll think about trusting you.






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