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通用汽车的危机管理有什么经验?波音又是如何犯错的?

Ellen Florian 2019年06月19日

想要处理好涉及人员伤亡的企业危机,一个重要原则是要表现出关心。

想要处理好涉及人员伤亡的企业危机,一个重要原则是要表现出关心。然而在埃塞俄比亚航空公司的302航班发生坠机事故80天后,波音公司的董事长兼首席执行官丹尼斯·米伦伯格才严肃道歉,此时距狮航的610航班失事已经达5个月之久,两次事故航班的机型都是737 MAX飞机,共导致346人丧生。

“我亲自向遇难者的家人致歉了。”他向哥伦比亚广播公司《晚间新闻》的主播诺拉·奥唐奈说道,这是自从两起事故发生以来他首次接受采访。“我们为空难感到难过,对事故表示歉意。我们对两起空难造成的伤亡很遗憾,这一点永远不会改变,将铭记于心。可以告诉你,空难也直接影响到了作为波音公司领导的我,那段时间很难过。”

米伦伯格还承认,MCAS软件并未正确地安装启用,沟通也未妥当执行,MCAS是737 MAX飞机安装的最新飞行控制系统,曾经导致两架失事飞机的机头不受控地下压。米伦伯格在采访中的发言无疑是朝着正确方向迈出的一步,但回应得太晚了,而且很平淡。波音还是可能成为商学院分析危机公关时给出的错误案例。

“采访中应该表达感情,或者说是热情,尤其想控制损失时更该如此。”公关公司Strategic Vision PR Group的首席执行官、媒体关系和危机沟通专家戴维·约翰逊说道,“他看起来过于冷静,而且回避了一些问题。”

举例来说,奥唐奈曾经问道:“你能想象机上的乘客有多害怕吗?”米伦伯格回答道:“我们对事故进行了全方位检查,不是为了推卸责任或归咎于人,只是想弄清真相。”

“他回答这个问题应该带着体贴的态度。”约翰逊说道,“他应该说:‘根本无法想象,我都不敢去想。我能够理解遇难者家人的悲痛。’”

米伦伯格在回答听说第二起坠机事故怎么想时,也可以用另一种模板回答:“这次事故打击到公司的核心。我在波音工作了34年,一直都在努力制造安全的产品。我们立刻叫停,评估形势,并立即采取行动改进,最后危机会巩固公司的核心价值。”

危机应对的金科玉律

企业总会遇到危机,而企业应对危机的方式会在公众眼中形成持续的印象。1982年强生泰诺污染在芝加哥导致7人中毒死亡,随后大规模召回产品,强生的处理方式可以说是危机管理的典范。应对极差的案例则有,在2010年墨西哥湾钻井平台爆炸夺去11人的生命之后,英国石油的首席执行官唐熙华成为媒体关注的焦点,他说了很多不合时宜的话,包括极欠考虑地抱怨“我想过以前平静的日子”。

在737 MAX危机发生以后,波音多次应对失当,影响了原本可靠的声誉,也损害了乘客对飞机的信心。“危机沟通的关键是先发制人。”约翰逊说道,“波音本该立即宣布停飞737 MAX,直到找出问题。”但据《纽约时报》报道,在3月10日埃塞俄比亚航班坠毁后,各国航空部门纷纷下令停飞737 MAX,米伦伯格却直接找美国总统特朗普保证飞机安全。一天以后,随着压力变得越来越大,波音才决定出于“多加小心”考虑,向美国联邦航空局建议暂时停飞737 MAX。

在第二次坠机事故约一个月后,米伦伯格录制了一段道歉视频,并提到在大多数坠机事件中都会发生的“一连串事件”,看起来像是推卸波音和MCAS系统在坠机事件中负有的责任。在几周后召开的年度股东大会上,他重申飞行员应该负责任,表示飞行员没有“完全遵循”某些程序。他还说道,“在基本设计和方法验证方面没有发现技术上存在失误或漏洞。”

在几天后发表的一份声明中,波音则大改口风,承认在狮航航班坠机一年多前就知道MCAS软件存在差错风险。声明还称,波音公司直到狮航航班坠毁后才告知了美国联邦航空局。值得注意的是,波音声称公司高层领导直到第一次事故发生后才了解到相关差错。

3A原则

与此形成对比的是,在2014年通用汽车的点火开关缺陷导致100多人死亡后,公司的首席执行官玛丽·巴拉作出了坦率的回应。她没有利用框定有限责任的法律策略自我保护,而是承担起责任,向利益相关者诚恳道歉并巧妙沟通,不仅亲自上门拜访,还聘请了“9·11”受害者赔偿基金的负责人肯·范伯格负责处理受害者赔偿事宜。她还聘请了一名独立调查员,解雇了丑闻相关人员。

“承认(acknowledge)、道歉(apologize)和行动(act),这是做好危机管理的基础之一。”通用汽车负责点火开关问题和凡士通轮胎召回问题的危机沟通策略师杰夫·埃勒说道。他补充道:“(米伦伯格)亲自出面道歉就非常有趣,说明这位首席执行官已经别无选择了。”

理查德·布兰森也是深谙危机管理之道的企业领袖。2014年,维珍银河公司的航天飞机在莫哈韦沙漠爆炸,导致一名试飞员死亡,另一名飞行员重伤。之后,布兰森亲身赶往坠机现场,满怀同情地针对悲剧进行了面对面的沟通。

美联航的一名乘客去年被拖下飞机,该公司的首席执行官奥斯卡·穆尼奥兹最初反应很糟糕——他称之为“令人沮丧的事件”,并表示会支持员工。但在公众愤怒情绪爆发之后,穆尼奥兹迅速改变立场。“任何人都不应该遭受如此虐待。” 他发表声明说道,“选择正确的路永远不会太晚。”他还在接受美国广播公司采访时表示“羞愧”。

如今,波音想在航空公司和乘客心目中重建信誉任务艰巨,第一步是让737 MAX飞机复飞。何时能实现?可能没有最初估计那么快。今年5月下旬,美国联邦航空局的代理局长丹尼尔·埃尔韦尔在沃思堡与全球民航当局进行了会谈,他拒绝透露737 MAX具体将在何时复飞,只是说:“如果需要一年时间才能充分证明可以解除禁飞命令,那就等一年吧。”最近,美联航将737 MAX航班的停飞时间延长到了8月初。穆尼奥兹在近日接受CNBC采访时表示,即使737 MAX复飞,也无法“假设人们能接受,也无法假设人们可以克服心理障碍”。这意味着在应对危机方面,米伦伯格还有很长的路要走:“我们都知道,不管要赢得还是赢回公众信任,都需要一些时间。”(财富中文网)

译者:艾伦

审校:夏林

An important tenet of managing a corporate crisis that involves loss of human life is to show that you care. Eighty days after the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, coming five months after the doomed Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing’s Chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg made a serious attempt to show personal contrition for the loss of the 346 lives aboard both 737 MAX aircraft.

“I do personally apologize to the families,” he told CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell in his first interview since the two tragedies. “We feel terrible about these accidents, and we apologize for what happened. We are sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents, and that will never change. That will always be with us. I can tell you it affects me directly as a leader of this company. It’s very difficult.”

Muilenburg also admitted that implementation of the MCAS software—the new flight control system in the 737 MAX that erroneously pushed the nose of both aircraft down—was not done correctly and that communication on that problem was not what it should have been. Muilenburg’s statements in the interview are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but the response is late—and tepid. And it will likely do nothing to keep the company from becoming a business school case study in what not to do in a crisis.

“One of the things you want during an interview, especially when you’re trying to do damage control is express emotion, express passion,” says media relations and crisis communications expert David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group. “He seemed overly clinical. He skirted some of her questions.”

Case in point: O’Donnell asked, “Can you imagine how terrifying that was for the people on board?” Muilenburg’s response,” We examine every dimension of these accidents. Not to try to attribute fault or point fingers, but it’s to understand end-to-end what happened.”

“That should have been a thoughtful question for him,” says Johnson. “He should have said, ‘It’s unimaginable, I cannot even think about it. My heart goes out to the family members.’”

Another bit of Muilenburg’s boilerplate was his response to the question about what went through his mind when he heard about the second plane crash: “This gets to the core of who we are as a company. You know, I’ve been at Boeing for 34 years. I spent a career working on safe products. We pause, we assess the situation, we immediately began to take actions on what we could do to improve and in the end this reinforces our values as a company.”

Crisis Gold Standard

Crises are bound to happen in corporations. It’s the response to the crisis that forms lasting public perceptions about the character of a company. The gold standard in crisis management is Johnson & Johnson’s 1982 massive product recall after Tylenol tampering in Chicago poisoned seven people to death. Toward the other end of the spectrum: A 2010 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that took 11 lives and put BP’s CEO Tony Hayward under the glare of media scrutiny. He uttered a number of gaffes including the famously thoughtless “I want my life back” remark.

Boeing’s numerous missteps after the 737 MAX crisis have damaged its solid reputation and harmed passenger confidence in the plane. “The key to crisis communications is being proactive,” says Johnson “What Boeing should have done right away is announce that they were grounding the 737 Max until they could find out what the problem was.” But as aviation authorities across the world were grounding the MAX after the March 10 Ethiopian crash, Muilenburg appealed directly to President Trump about the safety of the aircraft, according to the NYT. A day later, under increasing pressure, the company decided to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of the fleet out of an “abundance of caution.”

Approximately a month after the second crash, Muilenburg recorded an apology video that also references a “chain of events” he said happens in most crashes, which seemed to deflect full accountability away from Boeing and the part the MCAS system played in the crash. He reiterated pilot blame a few weeks later at the annual shareholders meeting when he said some procedures were not “completely followed.” He also said the company hasn’t “seen a technical slip or gap in terms of the fundamental design and certification of the approach.”

Then several days later, Boeing issued a very different statement, admitting that the company knew more than a year before the Lion Air crash that there was a mistake in the software. The statement also says Boeing informed the FAA only after the Lion Air crash. And notably, this admission makes a point of stating that senior company leadership only became aware of the error after the first accident.

The Triple AAAs

Weigh all that against GM CEO Mary Barra’s up-front response to the 2014 ignition switch defects that claimed more than 100 lives. She didn’t circle the wagons around a legal strategy that would limit liability. She took responsibility. She apologized, communicated deftly to stakeholders, visited family members, hired Ken Feinberg, who oversaw the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, to handle victim compensation at GM. She also hired an independent investigator, and fired people linked to the scandal.

“One of the foundations of good crisis management is acknowledge, apologize and act,” says crisis communications strategist Jeff Eller, who worked on the GM ignition switch issue as well as the Firestone tire recall. He adds: “[Muilenburg’s] personal apology is pretty interesting because it tells me it’s reached a point where the CEO doesn’t have much of a choice but to do that.”

Another leader who understands how to act in crisis: Richard Branson. After the 2014 explosion of a Virgin Glactic space plane in the Mojave Desert that killed a test pilot and seriously injured another, Branson struck the right tone by traveling to the scene of the crash and communicating personally and sympathetically about the human tragedy.

And though United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz, botched his initial response to the passenger being dragged off a flight last year—he called it an “upsetting event” and told employees he stood behind them—Munoz quickly reversed course after public outrage. “No one should ever be mistreated this way,” he said in a statement. “It’s never too late to do the right thing.” He also expressed feeling “shame” in an ABC News interview.

Reestablishing credibility with airlines and passengers is a monumental task for Boeing. The first step is getting the planes off the ground. When will that happen? Not as soon as originally thought. After a meeting in Fort Worth at the end of May with global civil aviation authorities, acting FAA chief Daniel Ellwell declined to give a timetable: “If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us confidence to lift the order, then so be it.” United recently extended flight cancellations for their 737 MAX planes until early August. Even once the plane flies, the airline will not “assume everyone will want to fly or assume that everyone will get over it,” said Munoz recently to CNBC. Which means Muilenberg still has a long road ahead in managing this crisis: “We know it will take some time to earn and re-earn that public confidence.”

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