Indiana Stage Collapse

The very moment the stage collapsed

What can the collapse of a stage for a rock concert in Indiana tell us about our organisational responsibilities? The answer is, quite a lot.

Imagine you are the cop who happens to be on duty at a local police station when the phone rings. It’s the local weather bureau, and a severe thunderstorm warning comes in.

You know tens of thousands of people have already gathered for the concert, and the storm is still at least 20 minutes away.

Do you immediately evacuate the area?

Who do you call for advice, or to action the evacuation? And how urgently? And what if the storm just blows past?

You don’t want to be seen as the guy who spoiled the fun for everyone. This type of decision is really above your pay grade, but then again, is your chain of command clear? And if you can’t reach your boss, have you got ready access to the organizers at the concert?

Because after all it’s just a few minutes before the headline act is coming on stage. Has your boss got that access?

In short, even if you think you WANT to do something, CAN you?

Now imagine you’re a rigger on the stage. Just an ordinary working guy.

You look over to the approaching storm front, and feel the wind getting up. Dust is blowing everywhere, the sky turns pitch black, and the stage trembles with the force of the elements battering it. But the concert is about to begin. You’re really not sure it should go ahead, but hey … you’re not the big boss. You think about saying something … but you hesitate, looking at the horizon and biting your lip.

Sadly, and ironically, it seems that organizers of the concert were actually considering canceling when an unexpectedly strong gust suddenly blew the stage down, killing at least five people, and injuring 40 more. Inquiries will reveal whether or not they could or should have acted sooner, and if they should have, why they did not.

In our everyday lives, many of us are confronted with situations that may appear less dramatic than an encroaching storm, but which may also have far reaching consequences. And sometimes, we are less than forthright in raising our concerns.

Perhaps our boss “just doesn’t listen to us”. Perhaps we fear being seen as “a trouble maker”. Perhaps what we have uncovered is evidence of sharp practice, or even illegality, in our organization, or one we are related to. Or of unsafe practices.

Perhaps we bury our head in the sand, hoping the problem will go away, and we’ll never get “called out” to explain why we didn’t say anything.

It’s that type of lack of empowerment that leads to disasters, and often those disasters occur in very ordinary situations, when a confluence of events turns bad very quickly.

The navigator who thought the fearsome Captain of the Titanic should slow down and head further south, away from the icebergs, but who kept his own counsel. The junior executives in countless corporate collapses who knew something was wrong, but who failed to tell anyone. The German officers who wouldn’t tell Hitler that D Day was happening in Normandy until it was too late to stop the Allies’ success.

If you run an organization, ask yourself this simple question. “Do the people that work with me trust me enough to bring me bad news, in good time for me to fix things?”

And if you work for an organization, ask yourself this simple question. “Do my bosses really want to know the truth about what’s going on?” (And if the answer is “No”, change jobs.)

Just think. If the stage area in Indiana had been cleared two minutes before that gust of wind, then no one would have been hurt. Two minutes.

The clock is ticking …

  1. Richard Ember says:

    It was a tragedy, mate. The sad thing is that the finger of blame will end up pointed at some guy who totally failed to understand what was happening and the possible consequences. Those who did and could will be away scot-free.


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