A wise leader often prolongs a sense of emergency on purpose

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

The London Underground was governed by a sort of theoretical rule book that no one had ever seen or read, Charles Duhigg explains (in The Power of Habit), and that didn’t, in fact, exist except in the unwritten rules that shaped every employee’s life. One of these unwritten rules was, don’t panic the passengers. Another was, stay in your lane. Then someone spotted the early signs of a fire:

Yet the safety inspector, Hayes, didn’t call the London Fire Brigade. He hadn’t seen any smoke himself, and another of the Underground’s unwritten rules was that the fire department should never be contacted unless absolutely necessary.

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Hayes, the safety inspector, went into a passageway that led to the Piccadilly escalator’s machine room. In the dark, there was a set of controls for a sprinkler system specifically designed to fight fires on escalators. It had been installed years earlier, after a fire in another station had led to a series of dire reports about the risks of a sudden blaze. More than two dozen studies and reprimands had said that the Underground was unprepared for fires, and that staff needed to be trained in how to use sprinklers and fire extinguishers, which were positioned on every train platform. Two years earlier the deputy assistant chief of the London Fire Brigade had written to the operations director for railways, complaining about subway workers’ safety habits.

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No one inside King’s Cross understood how to use the escalator sprinkler system or was authorized to use the extinguishers, because another department controlled them.

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The entire escalator was now aflame, producing a superheated gas that rose to the top of the shaft enclosing the escalator, where it was trapped against the tunnel’s ceiling, which was covered with about twenty layers of old paint. A few years earlier, the Underground’s director of operations had suggested that all this paint might pose a fire hazard. Perhaps, he said, the old layers should be removed before a new one is applied?

Painting protocols were not in his purview, however. Paint responsibility resided with the maintenance department, whose chief politely thanked his colleague for the recommendation, and then noted that if he wanted to interfere with other departments, the favor would be swiftly returned.

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Shortly after the explosion, dozens of fire trucks arrived. But because the fire department’s rules instructed them to connect their hoses to street-level hydrants, rather than those installed by the Underground inside the station, and because none of the subway employees had blueprints showing the station’s layout — all the plans were in an office that was locked, and none of the ticketing agents or the station manager had keys — it took hours to extinguish the flames.

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During turmoil, organizational habits become malleable enough to both assign responsibility and create a more equitable balance of power. Crises are so valuable, in fact, that sometimes it’s worth stirring up a sense of looming catastrophe rather than letting it die down.

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NASA administrators, for instance, tried for years to improve the agency’s safety habits, but those efforts were unsuccessful until the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986.

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Airline pilots, too, spent years trying to convince plane manufacturers and air traffic controllers to redesign how cockpits were laid out and traffic controllers communicated. Then, a runway error on the Spanish island of Tenerife in 1977 killed 583 people and, within five years, cockpit design, runway procedures, and air traffic controller communication routines were overhauled.

In fact, crises are such valuable opportunities that a wise leader often prolongs a sense of emergency on purpose.

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Fennell began by interviewing the Underground’s leadership, and quickly discovered that everyone had known — for years — that fire safety was a serious problem, and yet nothing had changed.

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So he decided to turn his inquiry into a media circus.

He called for public hearings that lasted ninety-one days and revealed an organization that had ignored multiple warnings of risks.

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A company with dysfunctional habits can’t turn around simply because a leader orders it. Rather, wise executives seek out moments of crisis — or create the perception of crisis — and cultivate the sense that something must change, until everyone is finally ready to overhaul the patterns they live with each day.

Comments

  1. VXXC says:

    Edited for Clarity and Relevance: A country with dysfunctional habits of free speech and thoughts can’t turn around simply because the elites order it.

    Rather, psychopathic elites create crisis; and hyperbolically overwhelm the senses demanding everything must change, until everyone outwardly complies by overhauling their speech and thought patterns that change each day.

    Americans are peasants waiting out the mad rulers; this will fail because our elites want us all dead and not merely submissive.

    Now in truth there is nothing and no system and no reform short of the grave, exile or prison that will contain the people who not so much rule as raid and ravage us. Most Americans long rule themselves, self government is only possible because we were already long self governing. What we have forgotten is self-defense. We may remember in time to save ourselves, or not.

  2. Kirk says:

    The “manager” or “leader” who waits for a “crisis” to erupt in order to “make change” is neither a manager nor a leader; they are, instead petty tyrants taking the opportunity to make themselves little nests of power and position.

    I’ve been around this type of creature more often than I’d like. Instead of actually fixing anything, they often set the conditions for the crisis through both inaction and action; then, they take advantage of the chaos and the fear stemming from said crisis, and use that to accrue power, which is their true goal in all this. Most of them don’t give a damn about the problems themselves, or the people suffering them. What they want it a chance to rule others, more than anything else.

    Witness the actions of our various levels of government over the last year and change. Do you not see this syndrome in play? Did any of these assholes like Fauci do any of this crap in the past, for other diseases? Quite the contrary; with regards to AIDS, they instead blew up existing disease control protocols, refusing to use the basic time-honored tools of isolation, contact tracing, and all the rest. Why? Because it served their political purposes at the time–Just as the things they did with COVID served the purposes of this moment. I leave for you, the reader, to work out what those purposes were. I’m certain that if you think about it, you’ll realize them.

    And, if you go back over the details of the AIDS “crisis”, you’ll also recognize similar fingerprints of politicization. They chose, with malice aforethought, to ignore the traditional protocols they are currently using against COVID, tearing down the public health system’s long-used conventions to do so. Now, they’re rebuilding them, and in a far more draconian way. Look at what Canada is doing–Did anyone propose similar strict rules over AIDS? Ask yourself why.

    We’ve been complacent for too long, too trusting in the “authorities”, and entirely too credulous whenever these assholes come up with their latest line of bullshit. Examine the surrounding details about the latest “crisis” regarding refrigerants–Now, we need to stop using all the crisis-induced “new refrigerants” like R134 and the rest. Why? Because they’re “even more potent greenhouse gases”. What the reality is, I’m afraid, would be that their patents are about to expire, just like the ones for all the halogen-based compounds did. Someone is going back to the well, one more damn time, to fleece the consumer for new products that won’t work as well as the old ones, and which will have even more risks. They’re trying to get everyone to switch to isobutanes, now–Which were abandoned long ago, due to minor little problems like creating fire hazards and other issues.

    I’ll wager that when we’re in the middle of this coming Grand Solar Minimum, they’re going to be using the same-old, same-old “manufactured crisis” to “enact change”, only it’ll be the same changes for a different reason, this time because of the cold.

    It’s kinda odd, doncha’ think, that the solution for the “Coming Ice Age” back in the 1970s was the same one they espoused for the “Global Warming” crisis of the 1990s and 2000s, with similar shaky underpinnings. It all boils down to a grab for power by the constitutionally power-hungry deranged types, and if you want to know what their world will look like, just examine what the Holodomor and the Nazi “Hunger Plan” looked like in Central Europe, and then contemplate what Mao did with his crisis-created powers in China. The term you’re going to have to learn when you do that is “democide”, and it’s a doozy.

    None of these assholes are people you should hand power and authority over to. They’re all operating in a different world than you are, if you’re a decent human being that doesn’t get a frisson pleasure when you tell someone else what to do.

  3. VXXC says:

    Democide happens.

    Ireland 1847 is democide of course. Or Ethopia in the 1980s. Live Aid my Living Ass, that food was sold or rotted on the docks.

    Our USA democide will be similar, hunger, actual famine. All that is necessary is to collapse by whatever means such as inflation the worth of money, and the USA food distribution system collapses. Shelter, water [gravity fed], even energy (electricity) enough to live is routinely commanded or provided locally during natural disasters.

    But FOOD requires money in the USA. Or the food distribution system breaks down.

    As it happens the merest appearance of Mr. Market and price discovery for the Dollar$ or any currency makes the money worthless, and famine results.

  4. Jim says:

    Green Pass

  5. Sam J. says:

    VXXC says, “Americans are peasants waiting out the mad rulers; this will fail because our elites want us all dead and not merely submissive.”

    More and more every day I’m sure you’re right about this. It’s very disheartening. As soon as they get rid of the average fellow they will start in on each other. There will be no one left. There won’t be enough people to keep it all going. It will all collapse.

    If they destroy all the White people in the US then immediately the Chinese will move in and waste all these psychopaths. They would love to have the resources of the US. It would solve a lot of their problems.

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