I hope you’re as enthralled as I am, watching the cave rescue of the soccer team in Thailand. Each day I wake up and listen to the radio, eagerly awaiting word on how many boys were rescued as I slept. While commentators say that this is “another situation we can all rally around,” I think not only of the desperate parents and the remorseful coach, but another level that I just can’t turn off . . . how the rescuers are organized.
But Who’s In Charge Around Here?
Every workplace and every family has a chief organizer. It’s greatly beneficial when this person is tightly aligned with the leader and they’re singing from the same hymnal, so to speak. But for this new system – this sytem born of anguish and emergency – there isn’t a generations-long history or a formal, culture-observed hierarchy. For these hundreds of people in Chiang Rai, there is only desperation and a common, visceral goal.
What happens then?
Someone has to take control. Someone has to find the money to buy oxygen tanks and pay the rescuers. Someone has to decide the method of communication, and then the message. Somebody has to call in the National Guard (or the Navy SEALS in this case). And then someone has to feed those volunteers. And house them. And provide sanitation. What about the transportation of volunteers? Do they need to be cleared? Do they need badges that allow them into certain areas, yet restrict them from others?
How in the world does the press, housed a mile and a half from the cave, obtain information in a zillion languages and pass it along to an information-hungry world? I’ve been to Thailand. I’ve seen their rains and their caves and their gorgeous, lush vegetation. But not a whole lot by way of infrastructure or cell phone towers.
Fair warning: I told you that I can’t turn it off.
But Here’s a Model of Success for You
As I’m asking myself this (at 5:30 a.m.), I remember that I attended a TEDx talk in Washington, DC in October. The final speaker of the three-day event was one of my favorite people in the world, José Andres. For those of you wondering, José Andres is a chef and owner of many restaurants here in Washington, DC. He is originally from Spain and is a self-made gentleman with many hard-won lessons under his belt. He was the surprise speaker at TEDx, and had, only hours prior to taking the stage, been in Puerto Rico providing relief for the residents who were still in desperate need following Hurricane Maria.
Chef Andres talked of what it is like on the ground, to come to a place with no infrastructure and no communication hierarchy but with hungry, baffled children. He talked of a “just get it done” attitude. He told us that the Southern Baptist Church routinely feeds people in emergencies (who knew?), but even the Army National Guard was so accustomed to hierarchy that they were largely paralyzed, not knowing how to find food for themselves while feeding the population and figuring out how to provide electricity and sanitation to an American territory surrounded by water. The Chef maxed out his credit cards and called everyone he knew to find food, trucks, pots, and firewood. He called in favors. He fed the National Guard. He probably made promises he couldn’t keep and overpaid on gigantic scooper spoons. But he didn’t worry about organization and hierarchy amid the chaos.
Score 1 for innovation and creativity, I say. Score 1 for “just get it done.”
The OD professional in me loves this!
Focusing on the Outcome
Focus on the outcome, not on the process. Outcome today . . . process tomorrow. How many times have I said this to my clients? Never. We’re always about making decisions that do not come in the heat of battle – in order to be flexible if the battle comes. That, I imagine, is the best way to proceed in a regular, predictable life. All of the pieces are in place, but in case of emergency, the rules change rapidly and the only thing that matters is accomplishing a clear objective.
Eight Thai soccer players out today. Five to go.