Insecurity Redux

Posted on January 4, 2010

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I think yesterday’s post could use less anger and more clarification. I don’t blame President Obama for insisting that the failures leading up to the attempted bombing over Christmas were a “systemic failure.” It’s not really leadership, though.

For years now, I’ve noticed that the response of organizations to human failures is to create new rules that address the process or system. No one addresses the human failure, and that’s tragic. You see, the weak link in any organizational system is that humans execute the system. That’s important. Computers are smart, and fast, but they lack judgment. We need humans involved in our systems. Otherwise SkyNet takes over and we’re all screwed.

Leaders should act on failure by training their people so the failures do not repeat. Real leaders admit when the responsibility is theirs, and fall on their swords – well, figuratively anyway. In some cases, leaders did everything they could and their people still failed, in which case, it’s time to fire those people.

So, Mr. President, here’s my math: Let’s say 100 people could have acted and in doing so prevented the bombing, and didn’t. How many people were on the airplane? How much is the airplane worth? Now add in the insurance cost for the plane and the lives lost. Then add in the cost of the new scanners in the airport. Then add in the cost of productivity lost waiting in line for the scanners at the airports. Compare that sum with the cost of firing 100 people.

By math, addressing the human factor, while far more difficult, is also far cheaper.

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Posted in: Leadership, Military