On the face of it the media stories about Lance Armstrong and Jimmy Saville are not related. They occurred on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean, involve people in completely different spheres of life and the actions of the two men being reported in the media are quite different. Incidentally, and for the avoidance of doubt, I am neither supporting or accusing either of the two men. I am not knowledgeable enough about the specifics to be able to do so. My observations are purely about the circumstances surrounding the events now being reported.
But there are a number of real similarities in the stories:
- The actions of the two men, as being reported, appear to have been driven by an imbalance between self-interest and what’s in the interest of others and / the wider community in which they operated
- Both men were considered to be extremely powerful in their community
- The wrong-doings that are being reported stayed out of the public domain for years
- And the people (according to the media) who tried to draw attention to what they considered to be wrong failed. The evidence suggests that the degree of disbelief and / or challenge they encountered was so strong that they didn’t feel able to continue with their accusation
I believe that combination of circumstances means that there are lessons to be learned for organisations.
Namely that where the culture of an organisation doesn’t prevent self-interest and "what’s best for me", and where a few individuals become very powerful, the likelihood of the culture suppressing challenge, let alone whistleblowing reduces substantially.
It also illustrates the value of really understanding the underlying culture at work in any organisation. What are its strengths and weaknesses and what are the risks that emerge as a result?
I wonder whether, if these inherent risks had been understood and managed, these stories have been more likely to emerge years ago?
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