Thursday 3 May 2012

Recreating the learning organisation - BP's values after Macondo

BP gas station What can a company do after a disaster such as Macondo? A massive physical disaster, with loss of life and environmental damage, a massive PR disaster with BP coming away as the Great Villain of the Gulf, and a massive commercial disaster, with huge settlements to be paid, only affordable through selling off big chunks of the business.

There could be two possible responses;
One would be to batten down the hatches, and revert to a Command-and-Control organisation, with massive controls over everything that anyone did.

The other would be to rebuild the Learning Organisation of the past, that earned BP MAKE award status for many many years in the late 90s and early 00s.
I am delighted to see, with the publishing of BP's new, post-Macondo, Corporate Values, that they are aiming for the second approach.

BP's new Value number 3 is "Excellence", and the second part of this reads "We commit to quality outcomes, have a thirst to learn, and to improve. If something is not right, we correct it".

The "thirst to learn" is the hallmark of a learning organisation, and I firmly believe that a Thirst to Learn is a far better support for, and outcome of, Knowledge Management than a Thirst to Share. Very good - that's an excellent step in the right direction.  

BP's new Value number 4 is "Courage" (an interesting value for a commercial company), and in the description of this Value we find the statement that "We explore new ways of thinking and are unafraid to ask for help. We are honest with ourselves, and actively seek feedback from others".

Again we see the "asking for help" value, the value of learning before doing, and this time in the context of "exploring new ways of thinking".  "Honesty with yourself" and "seeking feedback from others" are also key tenets of learning.

So can BP make it's way back from Macondo, to be a trusted and admired Learning Organisation again? If they truly believe in, and follow, these values, then the answer has to be Yes.


Kerrie Anne Christian said...

really hoping that they don't keep going through this repeat loop of rebuilding their KM programs

Nick Milton said...

I have seen this in a few organisations - I think the organisations "do" KM, and think they have done a good job, then after a few years realise that they need to be one level higher. So they ratchet up, think they have "got there", and then after a few years ......

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