9/11 Lessons of Resilience, Empire, the Future of Management and Freedom

A few days ago I was flipping through a book called “Leadership in a Wiki World” by Rod Collins.

It’s a good book, but not as fundamental as Freedom Inc, written by Carney and Getz or The Future of Management, by Gary Hamel. Those two books, despite the fact they often cover the same cases, are, in my opinion complementary and they remain for me leading and must readings.

The future of management has been highlighted so often I don’t have to come back on it.  Freedom Inc, more recent and less well known, is very good, and distinguishes itself by a number of features, of which I want to highlight today some important chapters on Motivation as practical applications of the Theory of Self-Determination (Decy and Ryan). So for me, it is a must read too I will tell more about this book and also about the importance of the Theory of Self-Determination in the weeks to come…

But back to my subject and the author Rod Collins. In his book he explains that he was COO of Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield while the September 11 attacks hit his corporation’s headquarters.  I quote his book:

 “The corporate headquarters of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield was located in the north tower of the World Trade Center. While nine of its employees and two consultants lost their lives on these tragic day, over 1.900 workers survived the terrorist attack. Empire lost over 250 computer servers, over 2.000 desktop computers, and over 480.000 square feet of office space when the North tower collapsed. In a single instant, Empire had lost its headquarters facility and all of its equipment. Yet remarkably within three days Empire was fully operational….. “(Emphasis added)

Now you might think, ok, the headquarters were only a small part of the global organization: they were not, 1.900 people of the 6.500 employees worked at the World Trade Center.

What was it then that losing headquarters totaling 1.900 employees out of 6.500 managed to disrupted full operation of the company for only three days?

This time, I don’t quote Rod Collins, I quote an independent assessment:  the assessment of a State examiner, Martin A. Schwartzman, in a State of New York Insurance Department Report, released on June 10, 2002:

“Empire had a very stable workforce that has repeatedly shown its commitment to the company. The dedication, responsibility and hard work of all individuals who work for Empire were clearly contributing factors. Notwithstanding the trauma employees had been through, many World Trade Center employees reported to work within hours of the disaster, and many more by the next morning. Empire’s workforce deserves much of the credit for the rapid and efficient recovery.”(Emphasis added)

For non believers, or for interested pro-people who want to dig deeper, downloads of this is available following   the link: http://www.ins.state.ny.us/exam_rpt/ebcbs01.pdf

I wanted to share this story with you, today, on September 11th, of 2010.

I believe that the world we are going to discover in the days, months, years to come might be very different from the world we know, and have experienced in the past. There is a fair probability we might even be facing very abrupt, and totally unpredictable disruptions.

Empire’s story tells us a lesson of resilience in such a case:

In unpredictable times, in abrupt change, people will make a difference

 

Making sure that the conditions are present for people to be prepared to collectively make a difference, in abrupt and unpredictable circumstances, is what I believe the challenge and responsibility is for enlightened leaders, shareholders and governments …

If you want to dialogue about this, I’m ready!

Cheers to you all,

Charles

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About charlesvanderhaegen

I am a grandfather of an immensely inspiring family, thanks to the most incredible wife. To satisfy my family's needs, I was for 30 years business entrepreneur, roller coasting between success and failure. 14 years ago I was forced to stop and reflect. I dug into theory and discovered the World out there, that my involvement in Business had kept hidden to me. I feared that I will not escape remaining amidst my trans-disciplinary quest forever, bouncing back and forth from action to theory, always puzzled by Europe's apparent incapacity to free itself from its Institutional/Technological Lock-ins. My horizon opened up when Gunter Pauly, my intimate friend of 35 years, asked me to join him and take charge ZERI's development in Europe.
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