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Keeping Track

Optimize Blog - November 4, 2011 - 0 comments

From all tragedies we can learn many things.  But, nonetheless, it’s still a shame that it sometimes takes a tragedy to re-focus a business on what is important.  So it is with the case in the UK of the Grayrigg rail crash in Cambria back in February 2007.
The enquiry report published this week points to a poorly maintained stretch of track which caused a train to derail at 92 mph and the sad death of one passenger and 88 others injured as the train left the tracks and crashed down an embankment.
David Lewis, an engineer with the company, broke down in tears on Monday when he told the hearing he had forgotten to inspect the track near where the crash happened.  He said he was “under pressure” when he failed to check a section of the rail line five days before the derailment.
Colleagues confirmed to the inquest that staff had to put up with “bully-boy” management and that the inspection team was under-staffed, not given the right tools or given sufficient time to carry out the necessary and prescribed track checks.  Even more concerning was the fact that Mr. Lewis has previously advised his management team of his concerns with the failures in process and inadequacy of the situation in maintaining a safe rail network.
As leaders we need to take note of such tragedies and the many others like them.  Clearly all businesses face pressures of hitting targets, driving down costs and meeting investor expectations but the focus needs to be on the right things.  Ignoring front line staff concerns, not providing the right tools and not addressing failures in core processes can only lead to failure.
For most of us failure comes in the form of lost revenues, increased costs or staff attrition.  A rail network and similar dangerous industries have higher stakes and people can and do actually lose their lives.
So next time you feel under pressure to take a short cut, ignore a subject matter expert’s concerns or feel the need to drive your employees beyond what is reasonable, take a moment to reflect and consider the consequences.
One of our key mantras here at Zeitgeist is “do the right thing” in all situations.  If you know, understand and do the right thing, results will follow.

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