The real tragedy of the Deepwater oil spill is of course the horrendous impact is has – and will continue to have – on the Gulf region. Inside BP, the tragedy is truly Shakespearean in scale – even more so than publicly reported.Organizationally, BP is deep in The Big Rut, and has been for some time. Now, the key distinction between Treadmill and The Big Rut is that in Treadmill, the organization can still self-diagnose – senior executives know the organization is losing its mojo, and want to / can do something about it. In The Big Rut, the organization loses its power to self-diagnose, and in its arrogance and complacency, fueled by legacy profits and near-monopoly market dominance, it circles the plughole for however long it takes to drain away its capital base before disappearing in a Death Rattle.
Once an organization slides into The Big Rut it is almost always impossible to get out alive. And once there, very, very few organizations are given the gift of a slap in the face so powerful that it shatters their complacency and begins the process of reversing the inevitable slide into irrelevancy.
Horrible as it is, the Deepwater oil spill was such an opportunity for BP. They were given a big enough jolt to rock them out of their comfort zone, but they blew it. The recent reshuffling of the decks, putting a long-time BP insider in the CEO position shows – no matter how good Mr Dudley is – that they haven’t grasped the precariousness of their position, and how desperately, deeply, definitively, they need to ‘top kill’ their own culture.