(By John Kotter)
“In our day-to-day worlds we rarely question the status quo. But it’s those situations – where our sense of what’s right overwhelms our tendency to go along with habit, process, or policy – that give us the opportunity to show our potential. My colleague Ken Perlman explains how, in the face of enormous challenges, ordinary people step up with innovative ideas and actions that take them far and beyond usual efforts.“
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a conference of emergency management professionals. These are the men and women who, when crises hit, are put into harm’s way to protect and care for us.
At this conference I was lucky enough to hear some of the other speakers before my keynote. One of them was Rene Fielding from Boston’s Office of Emergency Management. Rene was one of the leaders who responded to the Boston Marathon bombings. In her address, she detailed the day-by-day, hour-by-hour events, decisions, concerns, and considerations of the emergency responders. The list was incredible – from coordinating and tracking patients from the finish line to the hospitals to the more mundane, yet still important task of reuniting hundreds of personal bags with the likely ID-less runners without disturbing an active crime scene investigation.
Of all the powerful images and jaw-dropping accomplishments that she went through in a very-matter-of-fact way, she said a very powerful sentence. If you weren’t paying close attention to her comments, you could have missed it. When talking about preparing the bombing site so it could re-open to the public, there was a jurisdictional disagreement. One agency claimed the task was not within their scope, shop owners would need to take care of clean-up after the opening.
She simply said, “We are doing business differently today.”
That was it. No debate. No let’s talk about this. The only time I’ve heard that before was when my wife got a ‘nobody-does-that-to-my-daughter’ tone. It’s the sense that moral right-ness conquers all. There simply is no discussion.
In today’s consensus-driven, cover-your-tracks, keep-your-head-down, find-more-data, analysis paralysis world, it was great to hear that one sentence: “We are doing business differently today.”
When you start from there – a strong determination to do what is right – there is no limit to what you can create.