business owner I met several years ago told me about a
"fire drill" he holds at his company. Once a year this
man walks into corporate headquarters and says to the
first person he sees, "OK, I'm dead." Then he goes and
sits in the corner and watches what happens.
is the responsibility of the person who receives this
news to contact the owner's son and all of the other general
managers who run the family's six retail stores. The person
uses a code phrase for announcing the drill to the managers:
"We've just had horrible news. The owner had a heart attack
early this morning. He didn't survive."
after, the managers gather in the boardroom to go over
a checklist of key stakeholders inside and outside the
company who need to be informed and what they need to
do next. In the remainder of the drill, the group implements
a contingency plan that the company has been refining
over the years. One priority is to try to identify projects
the owner has been working on and assign responsibility
for them to others.
the father finished telling me his story, I turned to
his son and asked him how he felt when he received that
call. He said for the last six years they had been doing
this, he always had the same two reactions. The first
was a gut wrenching pain, because he loves his father
and can't bear the idea that one of these days the call
is going to be real. But, witnessing the efficiency with
which his team of managers tackled the complexities that
would follow his father's death gave him a tremendous
sense of confidence. He felt there would always be a safety
net in place to help keep the business afloat while the
family was grieving.
from Bonnie Brown's book-in-progress,
Until You Get It Right: Seven Strategic Drills for Managing
Money, Power, and Love
sm. Transition Dynamics Inc.
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