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The Costa Concordia Disaster

In: Business and Management

Submitted By bradygirl87
Words 3754
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The Costa Concordia Disaster
Molly Howe
Southern New Hampshire University

Abstract
This case study examines the Costa Concordia disaster in the context of organizational behavior. It will provide an analysis on the following issues: the breakdown of communication, to much group cohesion resulting in groupthink, lack of strong leadership, and the lack of good decision-making. These issues resulted in the accident and the unnecessary loss of life. This case study will also look at possible solutions for each of the issues.

Keywords: communication, groupthink, leadership, and decision-making.

The Costa Concordia Disaster On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia crashed off of Isola del Giglio, an island off the Tuscan coast. The Costa Concordia was a cruise ship part of Costa Crociere S.p.A, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp (Carnival Corp). The crash was a result of the deviation off the preplanned route (Del Valle, S. 2012). Captain Francesco Schettino is said to have traveled too close to the island hitting a granite reef that tore a hole in the side. What happened next was a disaster that resulted in 32 deaths (theguardian.com, 2013). Captain Schettino did not order an evacuation, or fully inform the authorities of the dire situation on board until an hour after the crash. The passengers aboard had not yet completed the safety drills on board and the crew on board seemed to lack the correct leadership in a disaster situation to properly assist passengers on board resulting greater loss of life (Del Valle, 2012). This case analysis will examine the Costa Concordia disaster, how the accident and the aftermath were caused by the breakdown of elements of organizational behavior and possible solutions that could have prevented this tragedy. The main problems of the Costa Concordia disaster were: breakdown of communication, lack of leadership, too much team cohesiveness, and flawed decision-making.
Communication
The first major problem of the Costa Concordia disaster was the breakdown of communication. There was a lack of communication between the Bridge, the crew, corporate offices, passengers and rescue personnel, which made the accident worse and probably resulted in the unnecessary loss of life. Directly after the crash and blackout on the Costa Concordia Captain Schettino called the head of Costa Corciere’s marine operations department Roberto Ferrarini. He reported the crash, the blackout and that one of the sealed chambers was flooded (Del Valle, S., 2012). Schettino called Ferrarini again a short time later to inform him that a second chamber had been flooded but the ship was still stable and the situation was still under control. Schettino called Ferrarini again to inform him the ship had started to list and that he planned on abandoning the ship (Del Valle, 2012). At no time during this conversation did the captain mention that he had not called the coast guard or that he had ordered an evacuation. When Schettino was asked why he did not order an evacuation until an hour after the initial crash he said he didn’t want to cause a panic and had wanted to maneuver the ship closer to shore (Del Valle, 2012). This order of events demonstrates that while the captain did communicate the situation to corporate offices he did not communicate the issue to people on the ship or rescue personnel. The corporate office did not fully comprehend the severity of the situation because Schettino did not fully communicate it to them, so they did not give recommendations about the situation. Proper communication is important to every organization especially in a disaster situation. Captain Schettino did not communicate fully or directly misconstrued information. He obviously filtered information. Filtering is defined as the distorting or withholding information to managed people’s reactions (Bauer, et al, 2013). Schettino filtered the severity of the situation because he didn’t want people to panic. It also could be implied that since his actions directly resulted in the crash he wanted to downplay the seriousness of it to save himself from punitive actions. When he realized that ship was capsizing he finally ordered the evacuation and left the ship himself leaving the rescue operations to the remaining employees and rescue personnel. Further breakdown of communication resulting in loss of life was the unpreparedness of the passengers and crew to properly deal with emergency. Cruise ships at the time had 24 hours after leaving port, to perform safety and drills with passengers (IMO, 2013). The Costa Concordia had not yet preformed these drills since they had only been at sea for a few hours (Del Valle, 2012). All staff aboard is supposed to be trained on basic safety, but at the same time Costa Cruises hires 10,000 people from 60 different countries (Costacruises.com, 2013). The diversity of employees can result in language barriers between crew and passengers. This could have made evacuation more complicated. All these issues were preventable if the proper communication practices were used. There are several possible solutions for the breakdown of communication that resulted after the Costa Concordia accident. First would be clear policies on how to deal with emergencies. Employees should be trained after initial hire on how to deal with all sorts of emergencies and then retrain with the coworkers that they working directly with. There should be no confusion on roles during emergencies. Passengers on the ship should also be aware of emergencies protocol and attend a muster drill before leaving port. There should have been a policy that in case of a crash then the coast guard should be alerted even if they weren’t ultimately needed. The coast guard could have been prepared and been on hand earlier in case things went wrong. The corporate office should have been more proactive in advising the captain. The captain should have been more communicative with the passengers. Granted he didn’t want to create a panic but his delay in ordering an evacuation of the ship resulted in greater panic and greater loss of life. The Costa Concordia was very close to shore it shouldn’t have been a hardship to get passengers and non-essential personnel off the ship and on to land. Since the ship was crippled it would be assumed that rest of the cruise would be cancelled and passengers would have to disembark even if it hadn’t capsized. Since the Costa Concordia disaster, which has been compares to the Titanic disaster, new polices have already been put in place by the International Maritime Organization. The IMO is the United Nations specialty agency that deals with the safety and security of shipping (IMO.org, 2013). In November 2012 the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee met and agreed to implement new rules the require passenger safety drills to be preformed prior to or immediately after a cruise ship’s departure instead of the previous rule of performing these drills within the first 24 hours of leaving port (IMO.org, 2013). Other policies that are recommended by the IMO include that the access of the bridge is limited to essential personal during certain maneuver when it is deemed that increased vigilance is needs. Also ship’s voyage plan has taken into account the IMO’s Guideline for Voyage plan. Life jackets should be easily assessable in public areas so passengers won’t have to return to their rooms (IMO.org, 2013). The IMO has realized that a greater focus needs to be educating both crew and passengers in safety procedure still too many recommendations are only voluntary rather than require. Another issue with the IMO is that it has no power to enforce conventions; it is up the member governments to enforce the conventions they do not have their own policing power (IMO.org, 2013). So it is up to the member governments to make sure the cruise ships follow the rules and regulations and it is possible that some countries do not enforce the rules as readily as they should. While there are weaknesses in the oversight of the cruise industries there is awareness that the safety of passengers on cruise ships is an issue that needs to addressed and closely followed. With greater emphasis on clear and honest communication disasters such as the Costa Concordia can be avoided. Plans and procedures in case of emergencies should be plain and present for everyone on board ships. The crew should be trained and passengers should be aware of all safety plans and equipment. Granted safety drills are not something people want to do on vacation doing could save lives. While the breakdown of communication was a major issue is the Costa Concordia disaster, it was not the only issue.
High Group Cohesion
Captain Schettino deviated from the ships planned course and no one on the Bridge questioned or stopped him. This scenario could have been the result of two different situations, this section will examine one possible situation and then next section will examine the other. This scenario could have been a result of too much group cohesiveness or otherwise known as groupthink. While a cohesive team can be a good thing when it results in productivities and high job performance it can also be detrimental when members of a group lose their individuality and won’t go against the rest of the group (Bauer, 2013). Groupthink is defined as the “tendency to avoid a critical evaluation of ideas the group favors”(Bauer, 2013). Not one person on that Bridge spoke up against the captain when he brought the ship too close to the island and then crashed the vessel. The idea Bridge was too highly cohesive is a plausible one and maybe when the captain brought the ship too close to shore it was something that was too common an occurrence for anyone to think it was a bad idea. It is reported that Schettino admitted that bringing the ship close to shore was “tourist navigation” and such things are common (Del Valle, 2012). If such things are common then it is no surprise that no on spoke against the captain. At the same time crew members should realize that there could be consequences for bringing a huge ship close to shore, and the company has ship plans for a reason and the IMO has guidelines for safe voyages (IMO.org, 2013). The outcome of this possible groupthink situation was very disastrous showing that organizations should work to combat too highly cohesive groups. While it is important to have teams that work well together, teams should be aware of groupthink situations. A way for organizations to combat these situations would be to switch out members on the Bridge every so often so there would be new and different team members. So the teams would not have a chance to form a too highly cohesive group. Another tactic would be to better educate the crew on situations that could be deemed unsafe and when to speak up against the group without fear of reprisal. These reprisals could be either formal such as write-ups or termination or informal such as being ostracized from the group. Organizations need to aware of these situations so they can better understand them so they can prevent other disasters from happening.
Leadership
The other possible reason that the members on the Bridge didn’t question Captain Schettino could be the fault of the organization. Schettino is the captain of the ship and therefore could his word and orders be law. If the crew on the Bridge are taught not to question the captain then of course no would have questioned it when he brought them too close to shore and then again when he didn’t order an evacuation until an hour after the crash. It is important to have good leaders in an organization because when a leader fails to act properly in a certain situation there could be dire outcomes as with the Costa Concordia. Another question arises about what type of leader Captain Schettino was. There are several stories about why the captain steered the Costa Concordia so close to island all of them have to do with pleasing people. This would make Captain Schettino a people-oriented leader, which means he shows great consideration for his employees (Bauer, 2013). There is very little evidence that this type of leader behavior makes the leader effective, which seems to be the case in this case (Bauer, 2013). The way the Costa Cruises could prevent this in the future would be to reevaluate the leader culture on their ships. If crewmembers are taught to obey orders even in unsafe situations then something needs to change. Crewmembers should be taught to ask questions when necessary and have the power or authority to go to outside sources, either corporate or rescue personal, if they believe the captain is not leading the ship correctly or safely. Granted their needs to be a hierarchy upon the ship but there also must be a check and balance system so disasters such as this don’t happen again. An organization, or ship, can only be as strong as their leader, so when a leader is weak then there can be major issues when an emergency situation arises and there is no one to lead.
Caption Schettino left the ship while there were still passengers and crew aboard. He did not do anything to organize the evacuation and then refused to get back on the ship when the Coast Guard ordered him to. Reports from the ship indicate it was a panicked evacuation with no clear leadership. There were no officers at the muster stations (Del Valle, 2012). Carnival Corp, disputed the claims that crew didn’t know what they were doing by saying the officers are supposed to be at the Bridge, the engine room or the site of incident to manage the situation there and rest of the crew is trained in emergency situations (Del Valle, 2012). There seemed to be no clear definition of what the captain of the ship should have been doing during the evacuation and the fact that he left the ship and refused to re board made everything worse.
Carnival Corp and other cruise lines should implement clear polices and procedures for the conduct of the captain during times of emergencies. Probably making the captain the head of evacuations though in most situations you really expect people no matter their position to sacrifice their lives. Self-preservation is too strong an urge for most. Carnival Corp should make sure they hire the right candidates for the job of captain and crew that make sure they are willing put the needs of the people they are supposed to care for over the needs of themselves or the organization. They need to hire or at least educate their captains in the servant leadership styles. Servant leaders put the needs of others, either employees or the community as a whole before their own needs (Bauer, 2013).
Decision-Making
Another fault that resulted in the Costa Concordia disaster was faulty decision making by a lot of different members of the crew. Decision-making is defined as “making choices among alternative courses including inaction” (Bauer, 2013). The original decision of steering too close to the island was one faulty decision, the inaction of anyone else on the bridge to question this unsafe maneuver was another, not telling corporate the true extent of the incident, not ordering the evacuation of the ship, or alerting rescue personal of the situation were others. There we many faulty decisions that led to the capsizing of the ship and the deaths of 32 people. There are several faulty decision making models that can be applied to this situation, these include: overconfidence bias, hindsight bias, and anchoring (Bauer, 2013).
Overconfidence bias is when individuals overestimate their ability to predict future events (Bauer, 2013). Captain Schettino showed overconfidence bias when he originally steered to close to Isola del Giglio. He had stated that steering close to island was something that is not uncommon (Del Salle, 2012). Thinking he knew exactly how the maneuver would go he didn’t think twice about performing something so possibly unsafe. Overconfidence bias by Schettino also resulted in the late evacuation of the ship. He thought he had the situation under control, and could maneuver the ship closer to shore. This overconfidence resulted in the greater loss of life. Overconfidence bias can be avoided by looking to see if you’re being realistic about the situation (Bauer, 2013).
Hindsight bias is when a person looks back on an event and the mistake seems obvious (Bauer, 2013). The whole world looks at the Costa Concordia accident as something that was tragic accident and something that was avoidable. The thing is that there were very few people on the Bridge of that ship and no one truly knows the decision process. It probably made sense for the Captain and the crew at time. The world needs to remember that they weren’t there and we can’t truly past judgment because we don’t know what we would have done in the same situation (Bauer, 2013).
Anchoring is when the individual making decisions relies too heavily on one piece of information (Bauer, 2013). There are reports from the Bridge that safety equipment, that was supposed to alert the crew if there were underwater obstructions, failed (Del Salle, 2012). The important issues that is arises is why did the crew rely so heavily on this one piece of information. Since they were close to an island would they be under the assumption that there could be underwater rocks even if the warning devices weren’t actively warning. Since there was no warning the crew incorrectly assumed there were no obstruction resulting in the ship tearing its side open on a granite reef. To avoid anchoring one must take in all facts and not just one thing to make a good decision. Decision-making is a very important in organizations. If you can trust leaders to make sounds decision then who can they trust. In this case faulty decision-making resulted in a major disaster and the loss of life. Cruise lines could need to implement policies and better educate its crew on how to make better decisions and make them as a team rather than an individual, while avoiding groupthink. The maneuvering a ship of the magnitude of the Costa Concordia requires a team effort to do it safely and efficiently to benefit everyone on board. Organizations need to also stress the importance of not relying too much on one piece of information or technology to make decisions since it could be faulty.
Conclusion
The Costa Concordia disaster was a tragic accident that was the result of several factors. These factors include, breakdown of communication, too much team cohesiveness, lack strong of leadership, and flawed decision-making. The breakdown of communication occurred between the captain, crew, passengers, corporate, and rescue personnel. The captain did not relay the severity of the situation until it was too late resulting in the greater loss of life. There were also unclear roles of the crew and uncertainty by the passengers what to do in the case of emergency. These issues can be avoided in the future by have clear policies in place so every know what to do in an emergency situation. The IMO has already implemented new policies in response to this disaster. The next issue is too much team cohesiveness resulting in groupthink, this lead to no one question the captain on his decision to steer the ship too close to shore. The way organization can avoid this would be to make sure crew members are switched out for different ships more regularly. Also educating its crew on alerting correct authorities when unsafe activities are being performed on the ship. The lack of strong leadership can be remedied by hiring a certain type of captain or educating their current captains in different leadership styles. Probably most important is servant leadership. Servant leaders look out for their employees and community more than they look out for themselves. If a servant leader had been captain they would have organized a better evacuation and probably would have stayed on board until the ship was empty. Faulty decision-making was another major issues that resulted in the accident. Decision-making is very important to organizations and they need to trust that their leaders are going to make sound decisions. Carnival Corp can educate its crews to make better decisions by teaching them to make decisions as a team rather than an individual. Also teach them not to rely too heavily on one piece of information or technology to make their decisions. The Costa Concordia disaster was an unfortunate accident. A lot can be learned by examining the issues that caused the accident and what happened in the aftermath in the context of organizational behavior.

References:
AP in Grosseto. (2013) Costa Concordia trial hears details of victims' deaths. Theguardian.com.
Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/17/costa-concordia-trial-details-deaths
Bauer, T and Erdogan, B. (2013). Organizational Behavior v1.1. Flat World Knowledge,
Inc. Washington, DC.
Brazier, A. (2012) What Can We Learn from the Costa Concordia? Loss Prevention Bulletin
224: 8-9.
Carnival Corporation & PLC:. Retrieved from: http://phx.corporateir.net/phoenix.zhtml? c=140690 &p=irol- index
Costa Cruises. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.costacruise.com/B2C/USA/Default.htm
Del Valle, S. (2012). Costa Concordia accident. Marine Log, 117(2), 24-25. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/925793425?acco untid=3783
Gill, R. (2012). Costa Concordia. Global News Transcripts. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/916487405?accountid=3783 International Maritime Organization (IMO). (2013). Retrieved from http://www.imo.org/Pages/home.aspx Knutson, S. (2012) Costa Cruises. Travel Weekly: 4. Business Insights: Essentials.
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Stabe, M., Bernard, S., & de Sabata, E. (2012). Timeline: The costa concordia disaster. FT.Com,
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