Who’s Watching the Turtles???

Tony Hayward....a "turtle" marked for greatness....

He was marked for great things…one of those really sharp go-getters, a hot-shot that the bosses prophesied would rise to the top, maybe one day be CEO. And so it was….Tony Hayward…one of the “turtles”, nicknamed after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, became the big boss at British Petroleum. He was supposed to be someone who would focus on safety in the company and change the so-called “champagne culture” at BP. What does that mean? Dunno for sure, but I’d venture a guess the prevailing attitude there was making money hand over fist. In other words, greed.

And perhaps Hayward did believe in those things, but unless the boss makes sure those far under him understand what it is that is desired…things float along as usual. So when a tech on the Horizon Deepwater oil rig at in the Gulf of Mexico saw some numbers that didn’t seem right…he dutifully reports those to his boss, though he probably knows what the answer will be. Maybe his boss gets a big bonus for bringing things in on time or ahead of schedule…and he loves that bonus.

So the conversation in any company might go like this….”Ummm, boss, sorry to bother you, but there’s a problem with the sprocket on flibbetegibit #2..some numbers that seem high.” He is frozen by a glacial stare from the boss who does not want to hear this bad news. “How bad is it? What are the chances that the sprocket will explode into a thousand fiery pieces, huh? What are the chances?” The employee acknowledges that odds are pretty low…..and the stare becomes more murderous…”So what are you doing here telling me about the sprocket for? Just get it done.” Many of you have been subject to conversations along lines like these….maybe just not about sprockets.

But the man whose job it was to let the rank and file know that safety was valued more than profit(I know, what a laugh)….now slinks off to another extravagantly paid job. His punishment? A settlement package that is rumored to be 15 million, give or take. So will things change at BP now? The “turtle” who was seen to be the great one…goes in disgrace with his millions.

Meanwhile, people along the Gulf Coast will live with the consequences of someone’s bad decision for many years to come… and the families of eleven men will go on without their husbands and fathers and sons. Reminds me of a line in a song by Australian singer-songwriter Xavier Rudd on his album White Moth….the song is called Footprint….”Like a river runs through the mountain to the sun…the truth cannot be changed….. it has come. ” Who’s watching the turtles?

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