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The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill The Politics of Crisis Response A Case Solution

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
1123 3597 Words (12 Pages) David Giles, Arnold Howitt, Dutch Leonard Harvard Kennedy School : HKS739
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This report tries to focus on organizational communication and information processing. The importance of contingency planning and the factors affecting the ability to communicate has been discussed. The importance of factors such as missions, values, and location has an impact on organizational communication. Communication efficacy is studied in detail and factors have been determined which have a direct and indirect effect on it. The parties involved in the communication process have been identified, and their impact on message processing is studied. This report summarizes the information processing in the BP oil spill case.

Following questions are answered in this case study solution

  1. Introduction    

  2. Contingency Planning and Ability to Communicate    

  3. Mission, Values, Location    

  4. Role of BP and Coast Guard    

  5. Previous interactions and Types of Communication    

  6. Reasons for Appointment and Allen’s Understanding    

  7. Articulation of Roles and Politics    

  8. Organization and Role of White House    

  9. Receiving Communication and Inconsistency    

  10. Storytelling and Contradictions    

  11. Word Choice and Goals    

  12. Audience and Stakeholders    

  13. Meeting Management and Players  

  14. Disproven Messages and Redundancy    

  15. Truth in Messages    

  16. Conclusion    

  17. References

Case Analysis for The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill The Politics of Crisis Response A

2. Contingency Planning and Ability to Communicate

A contingency plan is described as a backup plan in the case of any disaster that has a direct effect on the company’s operations. Communicating the value of a contingency plan is important for the organizations because it minimizes the loss in the case of any disaster. The plan will pay off its cost of maintenance by loss minimization at the time of disaster. The contingency plan also helps to prevent panic among the employees, as well as the other stakeholders of the organization. It is a comprehensive plan which enables the managers to look at the bigger picture of the business operations. Hence, the contingency plan is essential to be activated when it is needed, and regular training is required for it to be a successful plan in the future (Butler, 2013).

The appointment of Admiral Allen as the National Incident Commander after the SONS declaration held a great significance for the communication process of government in disaster. The management of Hurricane Katrina was led by Allen, and he was highly appreciated for his actions in the federal relief efforts. Everyone knew about him and was sure that he has been tried and tested before as well. Obama government wanted to convey the message that they are serious about solving the issue in less time. Allen, as the newly appointed Admiral, would convey a clear message of the government’s seriousness towards the issue. The appraisal of state and local officials on Allen’s selection made it clear that the ability of the government to communicate effectively in this situation has been improved over time (Olshansky, 2006).

3. Mission, Values, Location

US Coast Guard tried to convey that they are concerned about the safety of the environment and tried to be an important player in the oil spill case to communicate its mission and values to the American public. The role of the Coast Guard can be understood by the fact that it helped to arrange and formally organize a meeting of the representatives of the affected states including Alabama, Florida and also BP. The purpose of the meeting was to plan the next action and distribute responsibilities among the parties. The role of the Coast Guard had a vital impact on the management of the deepwater crisis as it played a role of a mediator and made the communication fast, which was the need of the hour (Madinda, 2014).

The United Area Command which served as the hub for getting a response in the region was situated in Louisiana and later shifted to New Orleans. As it was the hub for a regional response, its location had vital importance in the efficiency of NIC and the implementation of its decision. It was essential that there should be minimum distractions between the two departments. Greater the distance, greater would have been the chance that NIC finds difficulty in implementing its decisions and getting each representative on the same page (Rilla & Squicciarini, 2011).

4. Role of BP and Coast Guard

BP was immediately called for the meeting held by Admiral Allen as the head of NIC. BP was considered to be the responsible party both in the public and in the meeting of representatives as well. The optimal role of BP was that it takes on the responsibility of the oil spill and accepts to pay for all the damages on a priority basis. It has to communicate a responsible message to the public and maintain the image of the company. Public reaction was negative, but BP has to work for the damage control in order to convey a positive message to the public (Kirsch, 2010).

The term ‘scrambled’ referred to the action of the US Coast Guard in order to speed up the response efforts. BP oil spill was categorized as the worst US oil spill in the history of the country. There was an immense possibility for the federal government to face all the negative responses not only from the public but every department as well. Hence, increased efforts by the US Coast Guard displayed that the federal government is very serious about the issue. It did not want the spill to take place and will go beyond its capabilities in resolving the issue in much less time (Kramer, 2010).

5. Previous interactions and Types of Communication

In order to make a communication cycle successful, the message needs to be properly encoded. The Channel of the message has to be relevant and recognizable. Decoding by the receiver should be appropriate and the noise should be as less as possible. Previous relationships and interactions of Allen with other departments made it easier for the receivers to trust the message sent by Allen. Previous interactions also help the channel to be formulated beforehand, thus making it further easy to send the message through it. External pressure, in this case, was immense, thus creating noise in the communication process. Thus, it is necessary to make proper arrangements for the noise to be reduced to effective message conveying (Cheney, 2007).

Admiral Allen called all the affected representatives, the president and the responsible party for a conference communication in order to come up with a solution for the oil spill. Conference communication was essential for the time because it represented the seriousness of the matter. Conference communication helps the parties to make a clear stance out the whole communication. If the message is linked to more than one party, conference communication is recommended to avoid any distortion of the communicated message. Face to face communication is also essential to emphasize on the particular tasks assigned to individual parties. Conference or email communication can lead to responsibility avoidance, but it can help the parties to stay on the same page (Clifton, 2012).

6. Reasons for Appointment and Allen’s Understanding

The appointment of Allen was based upon the perceived significance of his personality. He played a heroic role in the disaster management of Hurricane Katrina. Appointing him as an Admiral was to express the importance of the disaster and the view that he will solve the problem in the same passion again. Similarly, the appointment of an Additional Secretary of Homeland Security for the disaster was expressing the message that the event was of national significance. Given the time and the state of events, the government had limited options for suitable candidates. Other rubric includes education, relevant experience, technical capability and ability to lead (McCarthy, Reeves & Turner, 2010).

According to Hammer and Champy (1993), inputs collectively formulate outputs which have value for the end receiver. The information process should have clear boundaries in order to complete it and create value out of the process. It was not easy for Allen to draw boundaries, but he had to do so in order to control the national disaster.

7. Articulation of Roles and Politics

Articulated roles are an essential component for the establishment of any department at the organizational and governmental levels. The lack of role articulation affected the efficacy of NIC in a negative manner. It meant that there was not any contingency plan in the hands of the government. NIC had to articulate each role itself which cost precious time and caused the spill to affect a greater area of the Gulf of Mexico. It clearly shows the importance of contingency communication plans for the government. It should be prepared for future events so that they could be effectively handled and efficiently dealt with (McKenna, 2010).

BP oil spill was a national disaster. When a number of parties are involved in any process i.e. corporations, government, stakeholders, etc. There is a greater chance of politics to come into play. Politics was clearly observed by Kayemma and Allen, and it was a hindrance in the way of the whole effort. Organizational communication should be politics-free at all times. Politics can distort the communication process and make it unable for the sender to convey his message to the receiver. In order to mitigate the role of politics in organizational communication, it is essential that there is a pre-defined, pre-determined process of communication which is followed by each one of the players without any exceptions (Shafer & Laplante, 2011).

8. Organization and Role of White House

An organization is a separate entity that has its rights and obligations imposed by the governing authority. It is important to keep the definition of the organization under consideration when designing communications. It has to be dealt with as an independent entity, and a proper channel needs to be formulated for effective communication. The case referred to a number of affected parties by the oil spill, each having its agenda. Similar is the case when multiple organizations are under the umbrella of a larger one. Communications have to design in a way that each party receives the exact message which the larger organization tends to convey. There should be categories of messages e.g. mandatory messages, optional messages, etc. (McPhee, 2001).

Power and status have a vital influence on the communication process between parties. When the sender has more power than the receivers, the message tends to have a strong effect. A strong effect means that the message will be carefully noted by the receiver party. In the case of the oil spill, the White House only contributed when it was thought that a message by Admiral Allen would not be enough for the parties to take action. The higher authority has to play its part when there is a chance of difference in opinions in the equally ranked parties. The message has to be conveyed properly to each and every party to make it possible for implementation (Wanguri, 2005).

9. Receiving Communication and Inconsistency

By taking the example of the case, it was essential that every affected party should receive the message communicated through Kayemma and Allen. In most of the cases, sender has to decide the involvement of parties in the communication process. When communication is shared, the scenario becomes complex, and the responsibility of communication management might also be on the receiver's end. The receiver should also play its part in communication management because shared communication means that there is a need for communication from the receivers end also (Bodie, 2011).

Creativity cannot be displayed in manuals and policies. The compliance documents are written; it is essential that consistency is taken into consideration at every step. The use of terms, abbreviations and acronyms should be consistent throughout the document.

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