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The Law of The Burning Platform Decision

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The Law of The Burning Platform Decision

Michael Feiner shares an evergreen post on leading change.

Leading change is one of the manifest roles of a leader. If change is not a part of the leader’s mindset, EVERY organization can get stuck doing the same things in the same way they’ve always been done. To prevent “organizational hardening of the arteries,” effective leaders focus not only on executional discipline and consistency, but simultaneously focus on change and adaptation. Without this dual focus, leaders…and the organizations they run…become bureaucratic, un-innovative and myopic. Make no mistake, effective leaders understand that ongoing adaptation is a requirement of their job.

Yet even those leaders who recognize the need to reboot or transform a business sometimes have a hard time convincing their people of the need for change. When clients ask me how best to communicate this message, I tell them the true story of “The Burning Platform.”

In July 1988, the worst oil rig disaster occurred in the North Sea. In terms of loss of life, it remains to this day the worst in history. Most of the rig was destroyed in the first few minutes after the explosion, and 167 of the 229 men on the rig were killed (for comparison, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the death of 11). Three days after the North Sea rig explosion, Nightlines’s Ted Koppel interviewed one of the survivors.

Koppel leads off by creating some context for the viewing audience: he explains it was around midnight, the survivor is fifteen stories high, a huge explosion rocks him out of his sleeping bunk, he’s dazed and confused…partially in shock, most of the upper platform has been destroyed, the survivor looks over what is left of the platform, sees debris and burning oil 150 feet below, and knows water temperature in the North Sea is around 38 degrees. After some back and forth banter with the survivor about how harrowing the situation was, Koppel asks him what prompted him to jump. The survivor curtly replies, “Well, if I didn’t, Mr. Koppel, my ass was gonna fry.”

Key points include:

  • The Burning Platform Decision

  • The need to be both specific and granular

  • Executional discipline and consistency

Read the full article, Leading Change… or The Law of the Burning Platform, on LinkedIn.