Cleaning up conversations

Cleaning up conversations

by Dr Karl Mackie CBE

There are challenging conversations which need to held after the Gulf oil leak and the environmental disaster that has beset that region and BP, with many examples of fraught communications in the unfolding events.

Over the years CEDR has been fortunate to work with many energy companies, including BP, and so we know, as do these organisations, how problematic dialogue with local stakeholders can be at the best of times.

BP is facing the challenge of negotiating the many claims that will be coming its way and for appropriate legitimate cases has of course communicated that it will have the funds to do this. Some good news then that a very experienced mediator we know, Ken Feinberg, as been appointed by the US administration to supervise a claims process.

Notably BP has also faced the issue of its leadership dialogue, with its boss Tony Hayward, so roundly criticised for what was said (and unsaid) and how it was delivered. This in part may have led the appointment by BP of Bob Dudley, a native of Mississippi, to deal with the crisis. Speaking the same “language” as the affected community will undoubtedly bee seen as an advantage.

Today the way that an organisation communicates and negotiates, internally and externally, can have massive repercussions for doing business and failing to consider this can be ruinous. Being prepared for difficult conversations will not prevent disaster but may limit some of the collateral damage to relationships.

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