Burning Platforms

One night in July 1988, a massive explosion rocked an oil rig off the coast of Scotland, killing 168. Andy Mochan, a superintendent who had been sleeping on the rig while off duty, awoke and made the instant, calculated decision to jump fifteen stories into the simmering water below. As he puts it, “It was either jump or fry.” Despite his injuries, it was a decision that saved his life.

Daryl Conner tells this story as a way of illustrating what it takes to bring about massive, transformative change at an organizational level:

People don’t have to face a life-threatening situation or organizational insolvency in order to support fundamental change. What is required is a deep level of resolve: the determination, fortitude, and steadfastness to stop paying what has become or will become an inordinate price for the existing conditions.

He goes on to proffer four motivations for changing at a fundamental level: current problems, current opportunities, anticipated problems, and anticipated opportunities.

A raging fire ball is a good motivation to make a change. But ultimately, peril alone isn’t sufficient. You must have resolve to take necessary action, regardless of the urgency of the circumstances. As Conner writes, “The burning-platform story is about having the tenacity to do whatever is necessary to no longer pay for the prohibitively expensive status quo.”

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