A dysfunctional relationship between engineers and
management may have been the biggest culprit behind the British Petroleum oil
spill in April, founders of National Instruments
Corp. said yesterday.
a NIWeek 2010 press gathering, founders
James Truchard and Jeff Kodosky said that BP's restrictive culture may have
discouraged engineers from delivering bad news about the company's blowout
prevention measures prior to the accident.
played a key role in the way they handled quality and safety," said Truchard,
who serves as president and CEO of NI, a maker of automated test equipment.
"When the environment is constrained, you can run into trouble, and I think
that's what happened there."
crisis reminded me of the (Space Shuttle) Challenger explosion in that the
engineers knew what was going on, but the relationship between them and
management was dysfunctional," added Kodosky, who is a Business and Technology
Fellow for NI.
comments by Truchard and Kodosky mirror those from numerous news agencies that
have examined BP's corporate culture. In June, The
Wall Street Journal reported that BP's in-house magazine actually tried
to make a case for the bright side of the oil spill. "Much
of the region's (nonfishing boat) businesses - particularly the hotels - have
been prospering because so many people have come here from BP and other oil
emergency response teams," the in-house magazine wrote. Other news stories have
also detailed an internal BP culture that promotes a rosy view of its issues.
Kodosky said yesterday that corporations need
to be vigilant in keeping the lines of communications open with employees. "If
you have an environment where failure is punished, you're going to have
problems," he said. "You have to be able to tolerate bad news."