Could BP Learn from the Malware Attacks on recent hosts?

As I watch the debacle unfold in what is quickly becoming widely known as one of the worlds worst environmental disasters – I watch with interest the actions of Mr. Hayward – the CEO and point man for the BP Company.

Since I’ve been working on my Executive MBA for the past year, leadership and its attributes and different flavors has been a subject of interest for me recently.  Watching Mr. Hayward, and his reactions will be fodder for business schools for the years to come and judging by the recent lashing he’s receive from Harvard Press – it  probably won’t be pretty.

We can talk about the horrendous impacts on the environment, lifestyles and in some cases, the very being of many communities along the shore for hours.  Being an amateur scuba diver and lover of all things water-based, I’m aghast and personally very afraid for the aquatic ecosystem going forward.

However, the Harvard article tweaked something in me – more of a case of deja vu really.  When we look at other ‘wide spread’ issues – such as massive data breached or widespread malware infections – we see a lot of the same actions of management.  To be sure, academia has done a lot of work in this area – the 5 steps of disclosure – lie first, slowly admit, backpedal, sweep, etc.

Just look at the current state of our own industry!  Over the past 6 weeks, GoDaddy has been suffering massive attacks of malware and wordpress cracks.  100’s per minute sometimes.  Watching their actions on their forums, and how they’ve handled some of the customer issues reminds me of the need to have a proper disclosure procedure built into your operational processes.  For sure not the first time, but GoDaddy should have some experience in this area and be a leader for others to follow in this regard.  Everyone has problems.  Sometimes the problems are too hard to fix, or hydrates get in the way and mess up great plans.  Other times, you need to buy yourself time to let your experts settle in and figure out just what is going on.

Either way, the crisis consultants have methodologies for dealing with these sort of things (I’m sure Tigers’ consultants are looking for work now) – and it’s something we as professionals and service providers need to look more seriously at.  Witness the recent activity around Adobe…  They admit to the issues (finally), but as of yet, still don’t produce a patch to potentially offset MILLIONS of infections around the world.

It saddens me to say, but perhaps what is really needed here is some good solid case law to remind vendors and service providers of their responsibilities.  Sometimes it seems that the only way to get business to move in a more ethical and responsible manner is to add a financial metric to it.  McDonalds reduced the high temperature of its coffee due to lawsuits.  Tylenol introduced seals caps in the 80s due to the lawsuits there.

So do I think BP could learn from our industry on incident and emergency response?  To be sure, they are very different industries, impacts and processes.  However, for me, the responsibility of business to be protective of their clients, supportive and acknowledging of client concerns and responsible for their actions. These actions set businesses apart from all others organizations apart from others – and in the long term – is a great sustainable business activity sure to pay dividends (monetarily and socially) in the future.

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