Institutional failure is avoidable

Posted by By at 22 October, at 15 : 20 PM Print

Institutional failure. These are two words that can come back to haunt organisations, governments and world leaders. We have seen plenty of institutional failure recently: US banks and government, members of the European Union, the Australian Government and even the AFL in combination with the Essendon Football Club.

Institutional failure is indeed a fascinating topic. Who takes responsibility when major failures occur? What checks and balances have been put into place to ensure that nothing goes wrong? Or if something does go wrong, that the damage is limited?

For those who watch The Newsroom, season two has been an interesting study in institutional failure within a news network.

The season focuses on Operation Genoa: an extraction of American soldiers that goes horribly wrong when Sarin gas is used on civilians in hostile territory. Did this human right violation actually occur? One producer of the newsroom believes so and is willing to go to extremes to get the story that can make his career.

An angry government source, once blindly trusted, doctors a manifest and hands it to the news chief. An assistant producer is asked to leave the interview of a key witness. When the interviewer doesn’t get the quote he is after, he manipulates the interview in the editing room. Meanwhile, the senior producer, who is known for his scepticism, isn’t available for personal reasons. All of this means the warning signs that would have prevented the story from running were either ignored or missed.

This example is a work of fiction. The failures of institutions that led to economic collapse is not, but the same principles would apply. Who was letting potentially damaging practices take place?

This brings me to the still ongoing Essendon Football Club saga. There is no one entity that can be blamed for bringing the Australian Football League into disrepute. There is no one entity within the football club itself that is to blame for the supplements saga that denied the club a finals presence in 2013, as well as important draft picks for the next two seasons and the loss of the coach and other executives throughout the next year.

Once the failures were recognised, the players in this saga could accept blame.

Assistant coach Mark Thompson told Channel Nine’s Footy Classified: “James Hird went and inquired about peptides. They’ve sat down, talked to Hirdy and said, ‘Don’t go down that path.’

“He had the meeting. He’s not saying he wasn’t warned. We obviously went down a path. The alarm bells should have gone off in somebody’s eyes.

“The AFL knew about this problem … and what I would really like is that if they did know about the problem, come and talk to the club. Come and look inside our club. Ask the questions. It might have been prevented.

“If ever this happens again – any crisis, whether it’s Essendon, supplements or another club with another issue, if we don’t learn from this situation, then the game’s going to be worse for it.

“If the AFL don’t talk to us about how to handle it better … because we were on the other end of it and getting a hammering all year, they’d be silly because we’d have a lot of answers for them.”

Player manager Peter Jess, who manages Essendon captain Jobe Watson, believes the AFL is as culpable as Essendon. Jess told Fairfax media: “First and foremost, the AFL had intelligence that warned them that things were happening…


Excerpted from an article originally published in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine. If you are a subscriber to Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine, you will receive this article in your Nov/Dec 2013 issue of TGR. If you are not a subscriber, click here to subscribe.

Opinion, The Last Word

About us
 | Contact us  | Advertise   |   Subscribe  |Privacy