Sounds like a case of toxic leadership.
In effect, you leadership has become quite risk-adverse to the point where they will knowingly make decisions that will result in failure. Self-sabotage if you will.
Although it would be difficult to pinpoint the exact nature of why your company culture is as it is, or how it go to this point. That isn't the goal of your question.
You question is "Is there a way to shift a company's culture toward open dialog and problem solving or better yet problem prevention?"
Before I continue, I wanted to ask whether or not you are willing to risk 'rocking the boat'.
Economically, I presume that you will get paid whether you decide to speak out or not. But consider the consequences of metaphorically being thrown off the boat. Will you be able to find another job if everything goes south? On the flip side, a good idea is often rewarded. You may be praised for correctly identifying the problem and preventing future occurrences.
Professionally, I presume that you have a valid and reasonable alternative to the status quo. I don't believe it will be productive if you were to point out this fatal flaw in a company without offering a course of action to remedy it.
This said, you question reminds me of a story told to me. If memory serves. The teller of the story was a senior statistician working as a consultant to a food and beverages company in the United States.
The company had a viable and potentially lucrative drink-recipe for market. However with 11 different recipes and a limited resource base to bring the drinks to market. Management decided to limit production to just three. The problem was: which three.
The teller's response was the following: "The correct number of recipes might be three, but it could also equally be two or even four. The problem here is that it is impossible to know. What we should do instead is find the number of recipes that maximizes shareholder value, return on investment and minimizes the cost of bringing them to market."
Applying this mantra to your case might be the following:
I have spoken to a number of the train-team about [the problem].
Putting off this problem for the time being allows us to delay the
inevitable. This course of action has its merits, but the cost to the
company in terms of money, time and most importantly - sanity is far
too high. This is not the first time that such a problem went about
unresolved until it blew up in someone's face causing much harm to the
If we want to grow as a team, as a company, this approach must be
changed. Otherwise we risk mundane and trivial problems snowball to
the point it causes catastrophic failure. How would we look if we were
defeated by something as small as [something small in your company
Here are my suggestions to solve [the problem]. It might not be
the solution, but I [along with the people that agree with me] all agree that doing [these solutions] will far more conducive to the
company's goals than to delay it any longer.
If you would have the time, please let me know what you think about
these proposals. I would be more than happy to speak with you at a
time of your convenience.
This is by no means a catch-all letter to the conductor-in-question. But I wrote it with the following concepts in mind:
- People don't like to be told wrong.
- People don't like to be told wrong without being told how to fix it.
- People respond to incentives (or decentives in this case of failure and cost)
- People are risk averse, but are comforted if they are not alone.
- People don't like confrontation, especially from a group of people.
- Based off of (4) and (5), let your conductor know that you are not alone, but you would not be mobbing him/her. Be receptive and open.
- People are not evil, at their core, people want to do good. You conductor may have very valid reasons to say "don't mind the wreck". But the problem is that you don't know until you ask. Assuming incompetence and negligence would not be conductive to your efforts of avoiding future wrecks if the keys to the train's control are not in your hands.
Sorry for long winded reply, hope this helps.