Thursday, 4 October 2012

Case Study: Bhopal Gas Tragedy - Communication Failures #2

Rachel Ruddy, a fifty year old mid-manager at the City Bank of New Rochelle, has been considering for quite some time having some extensive dental work. Although she made a point of having yearly checkups and cavities filled, she felt her appearance was affected by a badly discolored incisor, misaligned teeth and noticeable fillings. In the growing awareness of the self image and its relationship to job mobility, she decided to invest in having her teeth crowned.

She enlisted the professional services of her regular dentist, Dr Luke, who also happened to be a casual social acquaintance with whom she shared some friends and interests in common. Her first step was to ask Dr Luke about possible improvements. He explained that he would initially take an impression and then discuss a total diagnostic package. The cost of her phase would be $75, a charge to be subtracted later if she chose to have the work done.

After completing the impression, Dr Luke, explained the total procedure to Rachel at a professional appointment. She was so shocked at the initial figure ($4900 for the work that she assumed would cost half the amount) that she asked a few questions at that session, hesitant to pay so much just to improve her appearance.

Later upon reflecting upon the importance of her job and her desire never to have dentures, she returned to another appointment to clarify her understanding of the process and charges. Most of her questions dealt with the process itself.

From this appointment she understood that the charge included five years of maintenance. In fact, Dr. Luke mentioned that at one time he offered ten years, but found that figure unrealistic. He stressed that the decision to have this work done was the patient's. But he did mention that saving one's teeth and avoiding later problems with the temporomandibular joint were investments. And of course, if one compared the cost of that to a new car, it did not seem exorbitant.

Rachel had the work done, but she found that the diagnostic fee was not subtracted from her bill. The doctor's billing secretary maintained that Rachel misunderstood the initial figure and the doctor had already subtracted the fee. Rachel did not believe that he had done so, but decided that it was not worth making an issue of $75.

A year later, however Rachel was billed $20 after a regular appointment with doctor's regular hygienists. When she protested this charge, she was told that she had misunderstood. The package was for one year maintenance, but certainly a reasonable person would not expect to have 'free' dental care for five years. The five year period was for replacement of crowns that may not have adapted to the mouth.

Rachel had no intention of going to court or changing dentists. She was fairly satisfied with the work, but not with the colouring of one tooth. Luke had told her not to worry as within a year the shading would conform through natural staining. He had been right with other predictions about the teeth, but she was uncomfortable thinking that if she waited too long she might be charged for any changes and new crowns.


1. Who was at fault—the dentist for not putting his diagnosis in writing or the patient for not fully understanding the services?

Here the dentist was at fault, since he didn’t put his diagnosis in writing. Though the patient tried a lot to understand and she was satisfied also by dentist dialogue but there were so many people associated with this and almost all of them were giving different statements. That made the patient more and more confused.

2. How could some of these misunderstandings have been avoided?

By providing a solid written document, that consist of the service policies in details could have avoided these misunderstandings.

3. What services should have been communicated orally and what ones in writing?

The services that should have been communicated in written are:
  • Diagnosis fee
  • Maintenance fee
  • Visiting fee
  • Visiting sessions date & time
  • Diagnosis brief
  • Package in details
  • Duration of diagnosis
  • Maintenance period

The services that should have been communicated in orally are:
  • Diagnosis in detail
  • Package in brief
  • Fee estimation
  • Pros & cons of diagnosis
  • Suggestions
  • Socializing statements

Case Study: Bhopal Gas Tragedy - Communication Failures #1

On 3 December 1984, a runaway reaction had occurred in a storage tank of methylisocyanate (MIC), which was used to manufacture a pesticide. The valves of the tank had burst, and a cloud of poisonous gas had escaped. The winds carried it to nearby shanty towns and the populous city of Bhopal, where thousands of people either died in their sleep or woke and died while fleeing. Those who survived suffered from burning eyes and lungs. Local medical facilities were not equipped for the disaster, and over the next few weeks thousands more died.

Due to production problems, the plant was under a great deal of pressure to cut costs. A number of shortcuts had thus been taken with such items as crew training, staffing patterns and maintenance schedules. The original procedure called for upto two years of training for employees in critical superintendent capacities, but the plant operators had received about a month long training, using classroom materials developed in the US and printed in English.

Perhaps most importantly at the time of the tragedy, the staff did not realize the gravity of the situation and even took a break for tea after the leak had been noticed, thinking they would have plenty of time to fix it. The operator in the control room did not notify his supervisor when the temperature began to rise inside the tank and the entire situation remained unattended for at least an hour.

Mr. Warren Anderson sitting in the US, as CEO of Union Carbide, needed to know exactly what had happened in Bhopal. He knew that he would have to explain the tragic accident to the employees, to the government officials in both the United States and India, to the courts, and to the people. Yet, he could not get answers to his own preliminary and personal questions. When telephone contact failed to yield answers, he got on a plane and flew to India, where he was immediately placed under house arrest - unable to attend to the very business that had brought him there. His plant managers had also been arrested and were not allowed to talk to anyone.


1. Discuss the levels where the communication systems failed resulting in the tragedy.

The staff were provided the crash-course training and made to work. Even though they are too immature to handle the responsibilities, they’d got that. This results in the lack of seriousness of the situation in employees. Due to which, employees neither taken care of the rise in temperature nor informed his supervisor. The CEO of the company was in U.S., and did not have any idea of the gravity of situation. After his arrival also police made him unavailable to talk to his company’s employees. Here, communication was failed from the basic level to the top level.

2. Prepare a bullet presentation of the incident.

A bullet presentation is given below:
  • On 3 December 1984, a reaction occurred in methylisocyanate, used in pesticide. Tank valves burst-ed.
  • Poisonous gas escaped.
  • The winds carried it to nearby towns and city.
  • Thousands of people either died in their sleep or woke and died while fleeing.
  • Those who survived suffered from burning eyes and lungs.
  • Since local medical facilities were not equipped for the disaster, so over the next few weeks thousands more died.

What are the types of reports? Explain the essentials of a good business report.

The types of reports:
  • laboratory reports
  • health and safety reports
  • research reports
  • case study reports
  • field study reports
  • cost-benefit analysis reports
  • proposals
  • comparative advantage reports
  • progress reports
  • feasibility studies
  • technical reports
  • instruction manuals
  • financial reports

The essentials of good business report:
  1. Preparation
  2. Introduction
  3. Writing the Body
  4. Conclusion

How has technology revolutionized the communication process?

These technological advances revolutionized the processes of communication. Researchers have divided how communication was transformed into three revolutionary stages:

In the 1st Information Communication Revolution, the first written communication began, with pictographs. These writings were made on stone, which were too heavy to transfer. During this era, written communication was not mobile, but nonetheless existed.

In the 2nd Information Communication Revolution, writing began to appear on paper, papyrus, clay, wax, etc. Common alphabets were introduced, allowing the uniformity of language across large distances. Much later the Gutenberg printing-press was invented. Gutenberg created this printing-press after a long period of time in the 15th century.

In the 3rd Information Communication Revolution, information can now be transferred via controlled waves and electronic signals.

Discuss the steps involved in writing a case analysis.

There are a number of stages in writing a case analysis. These are:
  • understanding the case
  • identifying the core problem in the case
  • analysing the issues in the context of a theoretical framework
  • exploring alternative solutions with reference to a theoretical framework
  • choosing the best solution
  • making recommendations for action.

Differentiate between office circulars, office orders and office notes. State the standard parts of a business letter.

Office circulars - ...
Office orders - ...
Office notes - ...

The standard parts of a business letter are:
  1. Letterhead or typed heading
  2. Date
  3. Inside Address
  4. Salutation
  5. Body (Text)
  6. Complimentary closing
  7. Signature
  8. Typed name

What are the reading styles you are aware of? Explain the steps involved in the reading process.

The reading styles:
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Tactile
  • Kinesthetic
  • Global
  • Analytic

The steps involved in the reading process:
  • pre-reading
  • reading
  • responding
  • exploring
  • analyzing