“It was fry or jump, so I jumped.” - Andy Mochan
Andy was a survivor of a massive oil rig explosion who chose probable death over inevitable death during an emergency, and thankfully emerged unscathed. The business analogy that has been associated with this is known as The Burning Platform. The insinuation is that companies will act when there is a compelling reason to do so. In business, however, emerging from the emergency unscathed is not going to happen. The impact to the business is always profound.
When significant changes are required, they are always accompanied by some level of disruption and chaos. Additionally, the organization is not built for such an event and doesn’t have the required resources and people to get the job done right and in a timely manner. The need to “get back to business as usual” is overwhelming. Fortunately, many business “emergencies” such as this can both be foreseen, and avoided.
Many people associate change with problems, only acting when something is broken and needs to be fixed. The reality is that every company has opportunities available to them today to fix or improve their operational constraints, enabling incremental performance maintenance and improvement. In the proactive business environment, change = fix or improve. If not addressed individually, and on an ongoing basis, these opportunities accumulate until they inevitably become an overwhelming business emergency. In today’s business and regulatory environment, managed and ongoing improvement is essential to business growth, and survival.
Why wait? Stop paying what has become or will become an inordinate price for your existing operational constraints. Whether your organization has come to that realization, or not, the cost of the status quo is already way too high. The first step is understanding. What are the most pressing constraints to address now, today? How can organizational leadership systemically identify and target the operational constraints and the unmet needs of the Quality Management System and processes that are utilized to produce quality products? The second step is action. You can act immediately to incorporate targeted performance improvement initiatives into your operational quality plan to continuously address and improve your operational constraints. Are you waiting for a burning platform, an emergency? Wouldn’t you rather drive the proactive performance improvement of your business, predictably and without the disruption and chaos that inevitably comes when significant change is required?
The Burning Platform
At nine-thirty on a July evening in 1988, a disastrous explosion and fire occurred on the Piper Alpha oil-drilling platform in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. One hundred and sixty-six crew members and two rescuers lost their lives in what was (and still is) the worst catastrophe in the fifty-year history of North Sea oil exportation. One of the sixty-three crew members who survived was Andy Mochan, a superintendent on the rig.
From the hospital, he told of being awakened by the explosion and alarms. Badly injured, he escaped from his quarters to the platform edge. Beneath him, oil had surfaced and ignited. Twisted steel and other debris littered the surface of the water. Because of the water’s temperature, he knew that he could live a maximum of only twenty minutes if not rescued. Despite all that, Andy jumped fifteen stories from the platform to the water.
When asked why he took that potentially fatal leap, he did not hesitate. He said, “It was either jump or fry.” He chose possible death over certain death. Andy jumped because he felt he had no choice—the price of staying on the platform was too high.