Have you ever had a stress test? The doctor puts you on a treadmill going nowhere. Then they raise the pace and incline to see how much stress our heart, mind and body can take. A stress test exposes our strengths and weaknesses. Stress tests our limits. Such is the case that followed September 11, 2001.
The past year has been a stress test for our country, our leaders, our families, our organizations and ourselves. When the twin towers fell, it exposed for all to see, the positive and negative condition of our nation. The 9/11 Stress Test exposed our strengths and weaknesses:
Not unlike your organization, 9/11 was a stress test for the employees and families of ICMS. The lyrics from Sara Groves new song, “Less Like Scars” (1), describes our experience the past year:
“It’s been a hard year,
but I’m climbing out of the rubble.
These lessons are hard,
healing changes are subtle.
But every day it’s less like tearing,
more like building.
Less like captive,
more like willing.
Less like haunting,
more like remember.”
I asked my 82-year-old father this week if he remembers where he was on Pearl Harbor Day, almost 61 years ago. Both dad and mom precisely described where they were, what they were doing and who they were with. You and I will remember 9/11 in the same way. But I’ll also remember what the employees of ICMS did together following 9/11 to “climb out of the rubble”:
The senior vice president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank was at the podium of the Marriott Hotel ballroom — located between the two towers — when he heard the plane hit. One minute he was giving a speech. The next minute he was running for his life. During a recent interview, Harvey Rosenblum explained to the Dallas Morning News how his life has changed. “Like many Americans, he had to ask himself bluntly, ‘What would you want to be caught dead doing?’ His answer so far is to care more, listen more, pray more, reach out more.” (2) The employees of ICMS mirrored the actions of Mr. Rosenblum. We openly prayed for wisdom, discernment, protection and a plan to move forward.
Our customers curtailed Activity Based Management training and postponed Activity Based Cost systems. ICMS needed hope. We got hope from a new plan and new purpose.
Nothing will reenergize the people of an organization than a meaningful, exciting purpose and mission. President Bush gave the nation a purpose when he told rescue workers at ground zero, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
ICMS used the days preceeding Christmas 2001 to define a creative, challenging plan for 2002. We asked ourselves, “What would we do in 2002 if we were guaranteed success?” From our out-of- the-box answers we defined a plan that would provide us a new foundation, a new direction and a new motivation.
To move from survive to thrive, ICMS launched a new edition of the “Using ABM for Continuous Improvement” book. We re-engineered our web sites, expanded ABM training to new sectors of the economy, simplified our ABM software and offered audio tapes of ABM speeches. We learned how to provide private ABC software demonstrations via the Internet. And before year 2002 is out, we’ll complete an exciting plan to add “ABM E-mail” to our CMS-PC 4.0 software!
People who don’t take calculated risks are slaves to the past. The employees of ICMS broke loose from 9/11 and proceeded forward.
“There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul. They are to who and what I am and yearn to be. They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” (3)
These words by author John Eldredge remind me that 9/11 was my battle, 2002 was my adventure and my wife Sue is the beauty I intend to rescue for my remaining days. And until those days end, I will continue to pray, plan and proceed. I hope you do too.
(1) “All Right Here” by Sara Groves, Sponge Records, 2002 (2) “How 9/11 Changed a Life”, Rena Pederson, The Dallas Morning News, September 8, 2002 (3) Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2002 (4) “Wild at Heart”, John Eldredge, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2001