I was used to the concept of catastrophic failure, but not catastrophic success, until I read an article in the New York Times qualifying the latest Brexit saga as catastrophic success. That was the UK government having lost the vote in the Parliament on the model of exit from the EU, and days later having won a vote of confidence in the same UK government. Leaving the EU, as planned, will be a catastrophic success. But as the UK Prime Minister keeps saying, ‘the country wants to get on with it’.
Catastrophic success is what we have when everybody feels we have achieved something, jointly, consensual, after hard work and discussions, that is however a disaster. The disaster element seems to have less weight than the hard work and the spirit of collaboration.
We see this in organizations every day. The complacency on overall success, as compared with themselves, their previous success, that would be a disaster if compared with the market.
The achievement of common grounds, middle of the road, compromises, highlighted as big successes, which are in fact catastrophic mediocrity.
The deadlock and de facto close down of the US government at the time of writing, is a catastrophic success of resilience by the US administration.
And so on.
Great corporate successes may contain some elements of catastrophic disaster just hidden enough from daylight.
Catastrophic successes bother me more than catastrophic failures. The latter become so obvious that it would be impossible to be passive. The former may even have celebration parties.