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Lessons from the 9/11 report

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

The 9/11 Commission’s report on how the United States could have prevented the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon represents a masterpiece in organized thinking.

Here are a few of its ideas that you can adapt to any leadership situation:

  • Find your allies. Just as the United States enlists other governments in fighting terrorism, engage your allies in developing a “coalition”approach that can exploit emerging markets and technologies. Alliances can be especially useful when established systems don’t exist, when you need a united front to suppress the “enemy” and when the usual rules of war (um, business) don’t apply.
  • Define your message or what your organization stands for. Think values, not image. The commissioners call for the United States to offer moral leadership:  treating people humanely, following the law and acting generously. In this media-conscious age, nothing is more important than your reputation. Give customers a reason to bring business to you.
  • Improve your data collection. The 9/11 commissioners point to the nation’s credit-rating system, in which no one can hide debt by obtaining a credit card under a slightly different name. Like those screening for terrorists, make sure your customer information is relevant. Also, review who screens your customer data and what they’re trained to do.
  • Play as a team. Like the CIA and FBI should’ve done, your department heads need to share intelligence, strategize and plan together. If you have a nagging sense that they aren’t cooperating, tell them what kind of collaboration you’re looking for and why, and keep changing forums for exchange until you find something that works. Possibilities include interdepartmental projects.
  • Reward those who share intelligence. Curb information-hoarding by offering incentives to those who share it. Examples: Separate data from sources, protect secrets through “information rights management” (not blanket access or denial to your whole network) and reward sharing with more and better information.
  • Stand prepared. Before Sept.11, 2001, the U.S. missile-defense system had construed its mission as defending our airspace against threats from outside America. Even though the intelligence existed that an attack might come from within, nobody made the connection. Vigilance pays.
— Adapted from The 9/11 Commission Report, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office

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