Stop, Re-think and then Act

A plan that works in the boardroom needs to be adjusted to the reality on the ground.

In March 1967,Capt Pastrengo Rugiati steered Torrey Canyon, his fully loaded oil tanker the size of the Chrysler building towards Milford Haven, UK. The pressure to arrive in port by high tide on March 18 made him discard the safer but longer route. 

Instead he chose the shorter but more risky route between the Scillies and the Seven Stones -a sunken mass of rocks with a vicious reputation. 


All should have gone well as the weather was clear, the Seven Stones were marked on the charts and by a floating lighthouse and visible on the radar. With the current pushing the tanker closer to the rocks and fishing vessels getting in the way, there was still time to stop, reflect and rethink and take corrective action and change course. However with each piece of bad news the captain rededicated himself to his original plan.


Psychologists call it the Plan Continuation Bias - we focus on a particular goal so when bad news comes in which should make us rethink, our tunnel vision narrows and makes us redouble our focus on the initial plan.


With each set back the captain’s tunnel vision closed further. To make matters worse, Captain Rugiati made all the fateful decisions by himself not seeking the views or comments of his officers.

The Torrey Canyon ran aground leading to one of the worst oil spills in the UK.


Business point: Need to be flexible to reach your goal

Keep assessing the situation and adjust accordingly

Take more opinions on board

Sourced from Tim Harford’s Cautionary Tales podcast

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Written by

Jaya Machet

Jaya Machet is an Executive coach, Visual & Business Story Powered Communication Facilitator. She helps humanise the workplace through meaningful communication.

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