Zoom In, Zoom Out

by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

After an explosion on a BP oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 killed 11 people and caused the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, the company’s CEO at the time, Tony Hayward, zoomed in on the implications for his career. He appeared preoccupied with the incident’s impact on BP’s management and, particularly, on himself. About a week after the explosion, Hayward was quoted as saying to executives in his London office, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?” Despite PR coaching, a month later he told reporters, “I’d like my life back.”

Hayward, who was forced to resign in July, had numerous opportunities to acknowledge the bigger picture: the human devastation and public consternation ...

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