By Bahar Gidwani
In the Jewish Passover service (a holiday that ends this Tuesday at sundown), there is a song called “Dayanu.” The word means “it is enough” and the song suggests that God has been sufficiently kind to us and that we should be grateful and not ask for more. A concept that is common across many faiths around the world.
I thought of this song when I read a Wall Street Journal opinion page article by Bob Dudley, the CEO of BP. It was titled “The Lessons of Deepwater Horizon,” and it recounted the steps BP has taken since the disaster that occurred a year ago, in the Gulf.
These steps included:
- Paying claims ($20 billion set aside for this so far, but only $5 billion paid).
- Cooperating with investigations.
- Adding a central safety and risk-management organization that, in theory, has the power to stop unsafe behavior.
- Linking management and employee rewards to safety.
- Reviewing working platforms and platform designs to try to bring them up to a consistently higher standard of performance and safety.
- Contributing $500 million to research on the effects of the spill.
- Joining the Marine Well Containment Corporation, a group that aims to prevent future spills.
Should those who track BP be singing, “Dayanu?” Has it done enough?
I looked at the comments made about this article on the WSJ site. There were only 18 threads and 35 comments (a surprisingly small number, given the importance and controversial nature of both the event and the article). My simplified summary of the reaction is:
- Some feel BP is employing standard PR means to smooth things out; some feel it has made significant changes.
- Some feel the event could have been prevented; some feel it couldn’t.
- Some blame BP; some blame our regulatory system. Interestingly, some feel our regulatory system was too weak, while others feel that we pushed BP into dangerous territory by preventing it from drilling more in shallower waters.
In a way, the response fits back into Passover. There is a famous section during the service where participants list various reactions that children could have to God’s rescue of the Jews from Egypt. The lesson is not that one reaction is correct, but that we should listen to all answers and views, learn from them, and be more attentive as a result to the benefits of freedom.
In our system, the CEO of BP has the right to speak, anyone who wishes has the right to comment, and each of us has the responsibility to listen to the discussion and learn from it. Perhaps some other companies that have significant environmental and safety risks will pay attention to these conversations and avoid making similar mistakes in the future. If so, then we can tell BP, Dayanu.
Index Stock Imagery, Inc, from 1991 through its sale in 2006. He has built and run large technology-based businesses and has experience building a multi-million visitor Web site. Bahar holds a CFA, was a partner at Kidder, Peabody & Co., and worked at McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to both large companies such as Citibank, GE, and Acxiom and a number of smaller software and Web-based companies. He has an MBA (Baker Scholar) from Harvard Business School and a BS in Astronomy and Physics (magna cum laude) from Amherst College. Bahar races sailboats, plays competitive bridge, and is based in New York City.
Inset photo courtesy of SkyTruth.