Let’s Not Blow Our Tops

We’re starting to hear of the outrage of people trapped in Europe or unable to get to Europe due to this unpronounceable Icelandic volcano. And, of course, many are searching for scapegoats.

The Airlines want the European Union to bail them out, because the EU decided there was too much danger to airplanes and passengers. As far as I can see, that was a pretty accurate determination. (A jet fighter launched to test conditions came back looking somewhat worse for the wear.)

Travelers are upset with airlines, hotels, travel agents, local authorities, and just about anyone else who wanders into view. I don’t make light of the lost money, lost opportunities, and lost time. I’ve been marooned and ignored globally in my career.

But this is a volcanic eruption. No one in Iceland caused this, unless someone offended the geologic gods, and no on in business and industry spends much energy planning for a northern European volcano that suddenly blows its top and blankets major airports

Recently Rhode Island experienced historic flooding, the worst in its recorded history. A great many people have experienced tremendous hardship, and even those with flood insurance quickly were apprised that it covers structural damage only, not possessions. Emergency services worked very well, but damns, levees, and drainage structures were overwhelmed. No one built them for floods of this proportion, because the probability doesn’t justify the investment.

As far as I know, no one was killed as a direct result of the volcano’s action. There was more than sufficient reason to decide not to fly through rocks that not too long before were lodged under a glacier. There is no legitimate reason to expect that the travel industry prepare for 100,000 flights being cancelled over the course of a week. And it’s bizarre to expect the government to bail you out when its primary responsibility is public safety.

I’ve done a great deal of strategy work, and I don’t recall ever sitting around with executives saying, “What can we anticipate that’s unanticipated?” or “How much should we invest in protecting ourselves from 10,000 to 1 shots?”

Sometimes, stuff just happens. Spend your energy recovering, not blaming. The former puts you in control, the latter makes you a victim of something uncontrollable blowing its top.

© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Let’s Not Blow Our Tops

  1. Excellent.

    I was “trapped” 😉 in Ireland for an extra four days because of the eruption. Instead of worrying I toured and shared time with new friends.

    As far as I could tell the best decisions were made with the information gathered.

    Warm regards,
    Paul

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