The presidential commission has released its report and concluded that the Gulf incident was avoidable. Obviously it was avoidable! All incidents are preventable! The questions are – how can we anticipate what could happen before it happens (ie. are science and human knowledge adequate to predict), how much are we willing to invest in prevention (ie. to what level of probability), and what are the unintended consequences (trade-offs). Even if we reduce the risk to 0.0000001%, there is still a chance. And the resources we spend on the 0.1% could potentially have more bang for the buck if spent on something else.
But getting off my soap box, what I found more interesting than the conclusion that it could have been prevented was the conclusion that the most significant failure was a failure of management! – management of the decision-making process, communication, and training (in)effectiveness. “A similar tendency to hoard critical information was one of the crucial shortcomings identified by the commission named to look into the causes of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which found that federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies failed to share data that might have identified the attackers.” New York Times Online http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/science/earth/06spill.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=gulf%20spill&st=cse
Do people really hoard critical information? If so, why? Are they afraid they will look bad? Are they afraid they won’t get their bonus? Or do they just not realize at the time that the information is critical? What can we do to ensure that critical information is shared with the right people and in a timely manner? We are in the information age. Our problem now is less that we don’t have enough information but that we have too much information. How can we better sift through the avalanche of information that we are exposed to each day?