The FDNY could have defiantly restored itself to pre-9/11 operation. It could have sought comfort and triumph in pulling the old FDNY through the crucible of 9/11 and the days immediately following. Instead, FDNY leadership led the FDNY in looking at itself and in converting a tragedy of the very first order into an occasion for learning and changing, for preparing for an expanded role in an unknown future.
So many great lessons, we explore some of them on Today's Show.
“There were a couple of hundred firefighters at the time. There’s anger, there is shock, there’s sadness. Every range of emotion just existed there,” recounted Chief of Department Peter Hayden (retired). “It was bad, believe me. I knew we were in a lot of trouble, but we stayed calm.”
Chief Hayden climbed atop a battered fire truck in the plaza. He wore the white helmet of a chief. He removed his jacket and exposed the white shirt that also identified him as a chief. A lieutenant handed him a megaphone.
Chief Hayden spoke above the cacophony and the carnage to the throng of milling firefighters, “Let’s have a moment of silence for those we lost today,” he said. Hundreds of firefighters stopped, removed their helmets, and went silent. “I just calmed everybody down. I just held [my helmet].” After perhaps two minutes, Chief Hayden said, “All right, we’re going to move forward here, we got work to do…Company officers come forward…We’re going to form up search teams… We’re going to give assignments out.”
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Today in health, it leadership lessons from the fire department of New York. My name is bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system and creator of this week. And. Health it a channel dedicated to keeping health it staff current and engaged. We have a lot of things going on. We have flip notes. If you haven't signed up this week, health.com/. Subscribe, I believe is the page that you can go to. You can sign up for clip notes. We have the webinar coming up on a ransomware event where we're going to be talking to sky lakes, medical center, a Santi health. And a couple of cybersecurity experts, and we're going to be taking your questions through that. And that is. The first week of October, if you want to register for that this week, health.com/register. And we continue to pump out great shows on this weekend, health it some great interviews. Just last week we had Angela Russell on and that is what goes live today. On the, this week in health, it channel talking about analytics and some really interesting case studies. Worth learning about, so thank you for listening to this show. Hopefully, you're getting a lot out of not only this show, but the other shows that we produce as well as clip notes. All right, let's get to today's story. Fridays for me are days where I let down a little bit. Breathe, some different things and share some different things. So this isn't a technology per se. It's really leadership more than anything. And this comes from the Harvard business review. The article is titled how the fire department of New York changed after nine 11. And we all know what happened on, on nine 11. I would've just going to read some excerpts from this. A monumental tragedy had ripped through the fire department of New York. One of the world's most renowned fire departments, leadership challenges, abounded that day and deep into the future, simply carrying on would consume months, even years while the fire department of New York was still. Putting out the fires at the world trade center, it had to decide how to rebuild. Should it seek to restore what had been, or should it build something different? And I love how they put this into context, because I think a lot of CEOs, a lot of leaders might take over a new department. I have that same kind of challenge. It's you know, do you keep it going? Do you make it better? Is your goal to make it better or is it to build something different? And so this is a great case study in this. In the months and years to come, the fire department in New York took a long, hard look at itself. It utilized and invited outside perspectives. Even as it grieved and bowed under the weight of months and months of funerals and the loss they represented personally and professionally, ultimately the organization decided not to treat nine 11 as a black Swan event. They converted an unspeakable tragedy into an occasion for learning and changing for preparing for an unexpected role and the most uncertain of futures the department took in a wide array of perspectives. It commissioned McKinsey to study both the day of the attacks. And their organization moving forward that six month effort also led in 2004 to the first fire department of New York strategic plan. The nine 11 commission also offered relevant findings. As did the national Institute of standards and technology NIST. In some cases, these reports highlighted and accelerated change efforts. Already underway. In other cases, they stimulated new efforts to change. In the last 20 years, the fire department of New York has moved from a highly effective yet dated firefighting force to a modern emergency management and response organization. In 2015, it was ranked as the top government employer and the 17th overall best employer. In the U S by Forbes. All right. And so they go into some of the things they've learned from some of the interviews in this. I'm going to give you a couple of them. First one on the day of the event, obviously things are just crazy, right? The two towers had come down, you have people doing their best, trying to figure things out. And I'm going to read to you. A little excerpt here from. What transpired next? The overall command structure, lay in disarray with hundreds of firefighters dead or missing, including the first deputy commissioner and three. Of the five ranking chief officers and the command post destroyed in the collapse of the south tower. There were a couple of hundred firefighters at the time. There's anger there shocked their sadness. Every range of emotion just existed there. Recounted chief of the department, Peter Hayden. Retired. It was bad. Believe me. I knew we were in a lot of trouble, but we stayed calm. Chief Hayden climbed a top, a battered firetruck in the Plaza. He wore a white helmet that signified, he was a chief. He removed his jacket and exposed his white shirt that also identified him as a chief. A Lieutenant handed him a megaphone. Chief Hayden spoke above the cacophony and the carnage to the throng of milling firefighters. Let's have a moment of silence for those we lost today. He said hundreds of firefighters stopped, remove their helmets and went silent. I just calmed everyone down. I just held my helmet after perhaps two minutes, chief Hayden said, all right, we're going to move forward here. We got work to do. Company officer's come forward. We're going to form up search teams. We're going to give assignments out. Leading through a crisis it's aftermath and into renewal takes clarity of purpose and organization. Leaders must prioritize and address the tasks that need doing and energize their people to accomplish them. A crisis event is a special event. And in most cases, it requires a leader that is going to calm people down. That is going to give them the space to think. To re-engage and to remember what their training taught them to do and to do it effectively. And that's what. Chief Hayden did in this case. So it goes on and it talks about how they recreated themselves. And they talk about positions, especially leadership positions needed filling, lost experience needed replacing individual and collective trauma required treatment. A department needed rebuilding. Some answers were homegrown and some came from surprising places. For instance, the fire department of New York. Knew about incident management, but not on a scale like this help guidance and a model for the future came from the us forest service or smokey the bear, a nickname given to the representatives who showed up. Within days in forestry hats and green uniforms with tree emblems. For two decades. The U S forest service had operated incident management teams to handle the largest and most complex fires around the country. The forestry personnel quickly became central advisors to the project management work at hand, ultimately staying for about nine months. And then it's suing years. The fire department of New York literally went to school on the forestry services, incident management practices. The fire department of New York officers trained in the classroom and shadowed the forest service. From Montana to Alaska. The fire department of New York has become an national incident management resource answering the call. To help in new Orleans, after hurricane Katrina in New York after super storm Sandy and in Surfside, Florida, after the deadly collapse of the Champlain towers. This August fire department in New York assumed command fighting the massive woods Creek and Bolsinger fires in Montana. I liked this. I liked this concept as well. I've talked about this many times. And the one that jumps into my head is. As ed marks. And I talked about this and ed, when he was the CIO. At Texas health resources, he would bring in other organizations. From outside of healthcare. And it was great conversations and they could talk about a lot of different things, how they address certain problems That we're different than healthcare. But they were also addressing problems that healthcare hadn't even gotten to yet think digital and think of. Some of the things that some of these other industries have done different ways of doing customer service on a scale that was maybe different than healthcare, but something that healthcare could adapt. And I like that model that ed gave me and I think it's great for other leaders within healthcare to look outside and it doesn't just have to be the CIO. I think. That kind of networking and really looking at the other organizations. Within your community that are doing different kinds of work and creating those opportunities. To listen to each other, to ask questions, to maybe post your sets a set of challenges to that group. And so that they can weigh in because they're all patients, they all go to the hospital at some time and they're professionals. You can talk to people who are in it. You can talk to people who are in customer service, and I'll bet you, if you lay out some of the challenges you're having, you're going to get some very creative answers back from unexpected sources, just the fire department of New York did. This is a great article, by the way, I'm trying to figure out how much more of this I can read. I would read a couple more excerpts and I'd encourage you to go out and take a look at it. Many of the firefighters who didn't retire became the officer Corps. Everyone was doing a job that was probably two to three years before their time before they were ready, said former chief of the department. Ad killed off in 2003, the department created a fire officers management Institute. Uh, Partnering with Columbia university school of international and public affairs to teach everything from strategic planning. To communications. Two projects and performance management. It's selected people for training at the Naval war college in west point, and it developed a relationship with the Wharton's center for leadership and change management. So the thing I liked about that as I was reading it. Was it's that kind of creativity that we could use to retain our best staff, to train them for what's coming next to train them for potentially what's the next pandemic. Or to expose them to different ideas. And approaches to solving some very challenging problems. Let me leave you with a conclusion and there's, by the way, there's a couple more sections. Again. I highly recommend you go out and read this Harvard business review. How the fire department of New York changed after nine 11. Here's the conclusion of the article. And it will be my, so what as well, new York city could have definably reconstructed. The twin towers made them identical or the same, but taller and bigger. A consciously decided to think carefully about how best to rebuild. And did not merely reconstruct what had been there. Similarly, the fire department of New York could have defiantly restored itself to pre nine 11 operation. It could have sought comfort and triumph in pulling the old fire department of New York through the crucible of nine 11, and the days immediately following instead, the fire department of New York leadership led the fire department in looking at itself and in converting a tragedy of the very first order into an occasion for learning and changing for preparing for an expanded role in an unknown future, perhaps the biggest lesson. That the fire department extracted from nine 11 came down to the words of Lieutenant Ray brown. No matter where you work, you need to be ready for whatever that lesson guided the fire department strategy for leading toward what might come next. That's all for today. If you know someone that might benefit from our channel, please forward them a note. 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