The Wall of Fire or Burning Platform

The Wall of Fire or Burning Platform

For any major change within an organization a critical success factor is to find a deterent that will prevent people continuing with the status quo. Daryl Conner, the organizational change specialist, explains that while it is extremely important to have a clear and inspiring vision for the future it is also imperative that there is something that will prevent people clinging to their current way of thinking.

The Burning Platform Story

“At nine-thirty on a July evening in 1988, a disastrous explosion and fire occurred on an oil-drilling platform in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. One hundred and sixty-six crew members and two rescuers lost their lives in the worst catastrophe in the twenty-five-year history of North Sea oil exploration. One of the sixty-three crew members who survived was a superintendent on the rig, Andy Mochan. His interview helped me find a way to describe the resolve that change winners manifest.

From his hospital bed, he told of being awakened by the explosion and alarms. He said that he ran from his quarters to the platform edge and jumped the fifteen stories from the platform to the water. Because of the water’s temperature, he knew that he could live a maximum of only twenty minutes if he were not rescued. Also, oil had surfaced and ignited. Yet Andy jumped 150 feet in the middle of the night into an ocean of burning oil and debris.

When asked why he took that potentially fatal leap, he did not hesitate. He said, “It was either jump or fry.” He chose possible death over certain death. . . .

He jumped because he had no chance – the price of staying on the platform, of maintaining the status quo, was too high. This is the same type of situation in which many businesses, social, and political leaders find themselves every day. We sometimes have to make some changes, no matter how uncertain and frightening they are. We, like Andy Mochan, would face a price too high for not doing so.

Burning platform

An organizational burning platform exists when maintaining the status quo becomes prohibitively expensive. Major change is always costly, but when the present co

urse of action is even more expensive, a burning-platform situation erupts.

The key characteristic that distinguishes a decision made in a burning-platform situation from all other decisions is not the degree of reason of emotion involved, but t

he level of resolve. When an organization is on a burning platform, the decision to make a major change is not just a good idea – it is a business imperative.”

From Managing at the Speed of Change by Daryl R. Conner