Do you remember the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago? It was a 9.0 earthquake that caused a 45 feet tall wall of water that wiped out a coastal community.
Among the casualties was a nuclear power plant that melted down and caused a radioactive catastrophe.
An American named Charles Casto from the Nuclear Regulation Commission was dispatched to lead a task force to manage, to study and to assure safety in the aftermath.
There was so much focus on the plant that melted down, it was not well noted there was one plant that didn’t.
Casto has written an article that attributes the leadership of plant manager Matsuda as a primary reason that the plant survived.
Here are the things Casto noticed:
1. He made the safety of employees his initial focus. All the early steps in the aftermath were focused on assuring the 400 plus employees were cared for and their minds placed at ease about future risk. He reasoned that they couldn’t move forward until the employees’ were comfortable that all risks were being managed as well as possible.
2. Communication was transparent. Constant. The plant was in upheaval. There was nothing normal. The manager placed a value on knowing all that was different and communicating it.
3. Planning. There was a premium placed on creating and communicating a strategy. There is comfort in knowing the plan.
4. Flexibility. While plans are important, some would not survive the first hour. Results were quickly evaluated. If the plan wasn’t achieving the initial results, another scheme was created, communicated and implemented.
5. Innovation. The flexibility modeled by leadership ultimately led to a flow of potential solutions. The plant was saved when the hot nuclear rods were cooled by cold sea water. It was a controversial solution proposed by a mid-level manager. His zeal for the strategy ultimately convinced leadership it was the way to go.
I like to think we place a premium on these values as well. I hope as you “happen to the world” you place a premium on them in your individual actions.