October 8, 2004
Catastrophes don’t “just happen.” From Enron to the space shuttle Columbia to 9/11, virtually every disaster is the result of a series of mistakes – each one easy to overlook, each one set in motion because people simply refuse to believe the evidence staring right at them.
Robert E. Mittelstaedt, Jr., identifies the common factors beneath massive failures ranging from the Titanic to Firestone Tire, Three Mile Island to “New Coke.” Why did they happen? What could have prevented them? How did they spiral out of control? Drawing on these lessons, he introduces the first systemic approach to managing multiple mistakes so they don’t lead to disaster.
Mittelstaedt addresses errors in preparation, execution, strategy, and culture. He shows how to build internal systems that trigger loud and actionable alarms before “failure chains” accelerate beyond control. These techniques don’t just apply to high-profile disasters: they’re equally valuable in helping you avert failures arising from mistakes in operations, analyzing markets, understanding customers, designing and implementing strategy, or directing capital investments.
- 38 insights that can save your organization (and your career) – The disasters waiting to happen – and how to prevent them
- Why your record of success can be your worst enemy – Don’t get too confident, don’t get too comfortable
- “Can’t happen?” Says who? – Identifying and training for your “impossible” worse-case scenarios
- Why reinventing yourself once is not enough – Knowing when it’s time to reinvent yourself again
Robert E. Mittelstaedt, Jr., is Dean and professor of the W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, and former, Vice Dean and Director, Aresty Institute of Executive Education, The Wharton School. He has consulted with organizations ranging from IBM to Weirton Steel, Pfizer into the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and is a member of the Board of Directors of three corporations and electronics and healthcare services businesses.
Mitte research interests have included executive learning, corporate governance, IT, and strategy. He formerly directed the Wharton innovation Center and the Wharton Applied Research Center. Mittelstaedt founded Intellego, Inc. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy in nuclear submarines at the height of the Cold War.