June 25, 2011

Busting The Organizational Bunkers

There is a law in Switzerland that every citizen has to have quick access to a bomb shelter and that all new residences be outfitted with these.

According to the Wall Street Journal (25-26 June 2011), there are over 300,000 swiss bunkers with enough room "to shelter all 7.6 million citizens" and with 1 million to spare!

Yet, the Swiss continue to add 50,000 new spots a year in the bomb shelters.

Note, these are not just a proverbial hole in the wall shelter, but bomb bunkers able to withstand the "impact of a 12-megaton explosion at a distance of [only] 700 meters (765 yards)"--this is 800 times the energy discharged in the bombing of Hiroshima!

So the Swiss are very serious about sheltering themselves.

According to Swiss Info Channel, this preoccupation began in the 1960s with fear of nuclear attack and soviet invasion. Hence the slogan at the time, "Neutrality is no guarantee against radioactivity."

Despite the high cost of these shelters and the end of the Cold War, the Swiss hold dear to their shelters to protect against the variety of new dangers out there from terrorist's dirty bombs to nuclear/chemical/biological accidents, and natural disasters--and the recent events with Fukushima only served to reinforce those beliefs.

The WSJ points out, preparedness comes "second nature" to them--they popularized the Swiss pocket knife, they still have a mandatory military draft for men, and aside from the U.S. and Yemen, they have more guns per capita than anyone else out there.

I find their obsession with security fascinating, especially since they are a neutral country and haven't had a major conflict for about 200 years.

Perhaps, the Swiss as a small country surrounded by Germany, France, Italy, and Austria that were pummeled in World Wars I and II, witnessed enough bloodshed to be forever changed.

It reminds me of organizations with defective cultures, where employees see others beaten down so often and so long, they simply learn to keep their mouths shut and their heads down. They have in a sense learned to "shelter in place."

Of course, being prepared to duck when something is thrown at you is a good thing, but when you are perpetually stuck in a ducking stance, then something is wrong.

I admire the Swiss and the Israeli's propensity to prepare and survive, when they are the David's amidst the Goliath's.

However, in an organizational context, I am concerned when I see so many employees hiding in shelters, afraid to speak up and contribute, because they have been marginalized by broken organization cultures.

The organization is not the place for bunkers, it is the place for collaboration and productivity.

(All opinions my own)

(Photo Source: Facts Worth Knowing)


No comments: