Take Time to Reflect

“We have always been at war with Eurasia.”

While a lot of nerds are enjoying “Palindrome Week” — at least in those places where we’re satisfied to write today’s date as 9-11-19 — many are telling their “Where were you when…” stories for the more notable 9/11.

Yes, I’ve got my own story… but today I have a slightly different reflection I’d like you to consider: It’s been 18 years. That means that, starting today, there will be people enlisting in the U.S. Armed Services who were not yet born when the towers crumbled, the Pentagon was hit, and the field in Pennsylvania was scarred. Soon enough, many of them will be far from home in support of missions that had their origins in that day.

For better or worse, 9/11 was a tremendous catalyst for breaking the political, the policy, and the budgetary status quo. Where I was, people were suddenly willing to take risks, to reevaluate safeguards & protections, and to use phrases such as “for the greater good” as weapons; and there would be few if any willing to stand against that internal wildfire. How many reports and whistle-blowers later would it take to realize that perhaps this “New Normal” should have been a collection of temporary measures at best.

Of course, we all know that there are no “temporary” measures… Once justified, approved, and in the budget, an effort has seemingly infinite momentum. It would almost take another 9/11 to change direction. 18 years later, our next wave of war-fighters, beginning today, will only have ever known the current status quo, and they will learn the lore on the job and accept how “We have always been at war with Eurasia.”

So, how is it in your organization? How long have you been at war with Oceana?

It doesn’t take long for an organization to lock-in to standard operating procedures. It doesn’t take long for an infrastructure configuration to take root and quietly disappear into forgotten history. It’s often a fresh set of eyes asking “Why?” that either triggers our memories and war stories (if we were part of events 18 years ago) or shoulder shrugs from the generation that followed. If the fresh eyes belong to a green new hire, that may be the end of the discussion. On the other hand, if the eyes belong to a consultant or an auditor, you may have to dig deeper.

But what about you? How often do you pause to ask “Why?” Maybe with your annual audits? Maybe with your annual review of corporate documents? Maybe when something comes up in a tabletop exercise and makes it into the record? Who is charged with keeping the lore, and who is in charge of challenging it from time to time?

Or is it “I don’t know; it’s always been this way”?

Open your calendar. Pick a day or two that means something to you or your organization. Use that reminder and that energy to bring your status quo into your conscious attention and ask “Why?” Ask if it still makes sense. If it does, good — you’ve kept the reason alive — never forget. If on the other hand your circumstances have changed, now is the time to right your course.

As always, if you would like the assistance of that fresh pair of eyes to challenge your assumptions, contact us.