Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2014

The Kursk Submarine Rescue Mission — Short Film

by Anette Mikes and Tom Ryder


During a military exercise in August 2000, a state-of-the-art Russian nuclear submarine, the Kursk, sank in the Barents Sea, triggering global media attention and an international rescue effort.
In addition to Russia's Northern Fleet, two other organizations got involved in the rescue operation: the UK Submarine Rescue Service and a Norwegian offshore-diving company. Between them, these parties seemingly had all that was needed to rescue the trapped sailors, yet the entire crew was lost. How did this happen?
Complementing a Harvard Business School case study that focuses on the cultural, organizational and political elements of the failed rescue mission, these videos give an intimate account of the lived experience of Commodore David Russell, who led the Royal Navy rescue mission at the scene.
The troubling question that the Kursk rescue mission raises is this: Why do multi-party coordination failures keep occurring? Our aim is to provide a plausible understanding of the roots of the failure, and also, to highlight lessons to current and future leaders.

Keywords: Risk Management; Groups and Teams; Crisis Management;


Mikes, Anette, and Tom Ryder. "The Kursk Submarine Rescue Mission — Short Film." Harvard Business School Multimedia/Video Case 114-709, June 2014.