Last time, a contrast between two leaders at the point of decision: one at Olympus, another at Penn State.
Today, another example, again one from Japan. It involves the earthquake offshore of Japan in March. The resulting tsunami hit a Tokyo Electric nuclear facility, disabling reactors and ultimately resulting in releases of radioactivity. As the waters receded, the failing cooling systems at the Fukushima complex lead to releases of radiation, and an ever-widening evacuation of citizens who lived nearby.
Additional details of the evacuation began to emerge in August, and I threw an article from the New York Times into a file.
Apparently some of the evacuees were not moved away from the radiation, they were moved into it. Into an area where government computer models predicted fallout. Children would play outside and water from the area was used in food preparation.
But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japanâ€™s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone â€” and acknowledge the accidentâ€™s severity.
I actually had to read that a few times to let it sink in. How could you highlight a compliance “in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism?”
The clear answer, of course, is you can’t.
An effective and robust compliance program is easy to document and hard to deliver. If employees don’t see leaders acting consistent with compliance, they step back. If they have learned to go along to get along, then you might as well have no compliance program at all.
Last week, one Japanese government official tried to demonstrate that decontamination efforts were making water again safe to drink. Note that his hand shakes slightly at the :30 second mark:
I guess that’s a start in changing the culture, emphasizing responsibility, and facing criticism squarely.