“Plan for what is difficult when it is most easy,
do what is great while it is small.
The most difficult things in the world must be done
while they are still easy,
the greatest things in the world must be done
while they are still small.”
The Tao-te Ching, or The Way and Its Power
Lao Tzu (604-581 BCE)
Let’s simply stipulate that BP’s response to its disaster in the Gulf is shaping up to be the new standard for mishandled crises.
We’ll continue to harvest how-not-to lessons from BP as long as Tony Hayward continues to talk, the oil continues to flow, and beaches, fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and livelihoods remain at risk.
But what are the deeper lessons?
I believe the key is this: The seeds of what happened after the April 20 explosion were planted well before April 20.
To harvest the most meaningful lessons from BP requires us to look at the sequence of events leading to the fire, explosion, collapse of the rig, death of 11 workers, and the surge of oil into the Gulf.
Prevention More Important Than Response
However important getting crisis response right may be, crisis prevention is even more important.
BP got both spectacularly wrong.