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Tuesday, April 20, 2004some of BP's decline can be blamed on ill-adapted conditions within the company. BP had a huge and poorly disciplined employment force scattered all over the world. Nor was the company sufficiently strategic; for example, much effort was spent digging for oil in the Netherlands, though mega-rival Shell was much more likely to succeed on its home soil. Neither highly positioned managers nor ordinary workers were held accountable for their achievements and lapses, let alone their specific contributions to profitability. In crude behaviorist terms, there were few rewards (or positive reinforcements) for outstanding performance and few penalties (or negative reinforcements) for failure. Far too much of the company's business was focused on oil, though the extent of world reserves was unknown and the possibility of seizure by nationalistic leaders (or followers) was ever present. Perhaps most disturbingly, there were no plans for dealing with such destabilizing situations. BP stood at considerable risk of becoming an industrial dinosaur, going the way of once-dominant companies like Westinghouse, American Motors, and Montgomery Ward.
Howard gardner suggests the following in general for a massive change :search for the resonance and stamp out the resistance. Consider three such entrenched views—each familiar to anyone who has worked in any organization—and the ways in which these views might profitably be reformulated:
Early representation: Bigger is always better.
Better representation: It all depends. Sometimes small is beautiful. Assets of scale are often at odds with flexibility, comfort, innovation. The behemoths of one era may well become the dinosaurs of the next.
Early representation: It you don't like your situation, scream, quit, or do both.
Better representation: All niches have pros and cons. If you act shrewdly, you may be able to improve your situation, not only benefiting yourself but also improving the atmosphere for others. It is also important to listen to what others are saying because you might not grasp the whole picture.
Early representation: I've done it this way so long that I know it is right.
Better representation: There is merit in tried-and-true practices, but sometimes—and particularly at a time of rapid change—such practices can become dysfunctional. Items of inferior quality that are less expensively made sometimes dislodge quality products. Keep an open mind, be willing to experiment, blend the best of the old and the new.
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