Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stages of denial

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, former GE CEO Jack Welch wrote about the stages of leadership denial in crisis. Much of his piece will sound familiar to those following post-Katrina political fallout: "...Hurricane Katrina is practically a case study of the five stages people seem to have to go through during severe crises..." "...contrary to the sound and fury out there right now, the Katrina crisis follows a well-worn pattern..." "...The first stage of that pattern is denial. The problem isn't that bad, the thinking usually goes, it can't be, because bad things don't happen here, to us. The second is containment. This is the stage where people, including perfectly capable leaders, try to make the problem disappear by giving it to someone else to solve. The third stage is shame-mongering, in which all parties with a stake in the problem enter into a frantic dance of self-defense, assigning blame and claiming credit. Fourth comes blood on the floor. In just about every crisis, a high profile person pays with his job, and sometimes he takes a crowd with him. In the fifth and final stage, the crisis gets fixed and, despite prophesies of permanent doom, life goes on, usually for the better."