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Taking charge at the Oscars

The Oscars hired PwC to run a process that didn’t lead to errors in awarding gongs. They would have been better hiring a PR company to focus on clarity of leadership and communication.

That’s because when the process went wrong, as process inevitably does, brave communication and leadership is the only thing that could have saved it.

It’s hard to blame the aging presenters, but they remind us that we need to voice and act on doubts. Both presenters thought something was wrong, but decided it wasn’t their responsibility. That’s what process does to people.

PwC claim “the second we realized… we notified the appropriate parties and corrected the mistake.”

A PwC accountant managing the cards at the side of the stage knew it had gone wrong. He did not act but instead sought out “appropriate parties”.

The reason for the delay was that it took time to find someone willing to make a decision.

As the process-hacks debated on stage, the decision gap gave the ‘La La Land’ producer a moment to shine. He took control of the microphone and definitively summarised what had happened. He authoratively handed the award to the real winners, and won subsequent admiration, while PwC was mocked.

Leaders who rely on process will find it harder to lead when things go wrong, and they risk handing control to others.

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