What really sank the Titanic?
By Peter Baily • 24 Apr 2012
On the anniversary year of one of the worst civil maritime disasters in our history, this question has undoubtedly been asked afresh by families, engineers, sailors and critical thinkers alike.
Pose this question to a group of your friends or colleagues and a little thinking will betray a plethora of answers tracing up and down the chain of cause and effect. “It was the poor training of crew” those with a people disposition will cry, “It was poor quality Iron rivets” the engineers will theorise. My own answer is that fundamentally it was the bulkheads of the ship which allowed its demise.
There is a churning sea of problems and potential pitfalls in our endearingly chaotic world. We ultimately navigate it to the best of our seaworthiness and in fact the very fact that it isn’t plain sailing is the reason why we can enjoy challenges and the success which triumph will bring, either in our personal or business lives. The reason that I settle upon the 16 supposedly watertight bulkheads of the Ocean class liner being responsible for the sinking and loss of life is that the ship was always going to be exposed to many dangers in such a voyage. Even the consideration of the need for life jackets, lifeboats, bulkheads and sealed doors betrays the acknowledgement that something can always go wrong.
I argue that it was not something as striking as an iceberg, or as immediate as negligence of the crew, but the failure of the main thing which would have mitigated the damage that was responsible (whether or not that damage was avoidable). We all have to sail into choppy seas, and I believe the best preparation is to build your business with bulkheads from day one.
So what does this mean in real terms? Well the theoretical concept of dividing a ship to protect the whole from localised incidents, is what I am eluding to. By taking the time, effort and consideration to create watertight cells within your business you are building a ship which is prepared for peril, but not prone to disaster. An example of this is to set systems which are the lifeblood of your business beyond reproach. Email for instance is now the lifeblood of both internal and external communication for a vast proportion of UK businesses. Historically it might have been perceivable that a small amount of email downtime would be shrugged off by the momentum of the rest of your Titanic, but more recently, downtime of anything which is so fundamental for all aspects of your business is unlikely to stop flooding your ship once it starts.
Another example is training of your staff. Morale is of course critical in keeping your business on message and on track for your objectives whatever they may be. So when one unhappy member of staff leaves, or worse sticks around and sows seeds of discontent, you don’t want a seeping spread of their mentality into otherwise sound neighbouring components. So we forge a strong company ethos, and engage all the staff within it. This is exactly what I mean when I say that an “unsinkable” business will be compartmentalised, with each being considered a strong and structurally sound unit in its own right.
Taking this approach from day one is the way to feel a sturdy ship beneath your feet. You will have the confidence that the choices made and the materials forged have been used in a way that does not leave you exposed to one section flooding the rest. There will always be icebergs, and there will always be incidents, but with your bulkheads set firm then you should stay afloat. What really sank the Titanic?
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