The CHIMES Foundation Leadership Award and the Monkey Rope: A Thank You from Larry Grandia
Having served as a CHIME founding board member, I’ve been regularly attending CHIME conferences from the very beginning. I’ve found them all to be valuable in some meaningful way, but the CHIME 13 Fall Forum will long hold a special place in my heart. It was there that I had the very distinct honor of receiving the CHIMES Foundation Leadership Award—joining the likes of Judy Faulkner, Kent Gale, Betsy Hersher, Ralph Fargnoli, Ivo Nelson, Bill Childs, Glen Tullman, and John Glaser. Six of those eight are personal friends and have been monkey rope holders (we’ll get to that in a moment). Rather than being honored for a specific accomplishment, this award has always been intended to reflect on the recipient’s contributions across their career in HIT—a type of lifetime achievement award. And this is why it’s so special…and why I’d like to share the results of my reflections on receiving such a high honor.
About halfway through Melville’s classic Moby Dick, we’re introduced to the phrase “the monkey rope.” It was a safety system devised to protect whalers in the treacherous process of harvesting whale blubber (which was subsequently melted down, once back on land, to produce the desired whale oil) from off of a harpooned whale. It’s hard to imagine how dangerous that process was. After lashing the harpooned whale to the side of the boat, whalers were lowered onto the whale along with long-handled cutting devices. While using both hands to cut, the seas would roll over the bobbling whale. Think of the difficulty in safely maintaining your balance under those circumstances! Fall toward the boat and you’d be crushed, fall away from the boat and you’d quickly be devoured by schools of sharks attracted by the whale’s blood. The only safety was a rope, a monkey rope, tied around the whaler on the whale and tied around a whaler on the boat. While on the whale, your life was totally in the hands of your protector holding onto your rope.
The monkey rope analogy has applied fully and often in my HIT professional career and in a wide variety of ways. While I never attended medical school, I’ve been privileged through the development of wonderful clinical automation offerings to have felt the rewards of holding a clinician’s monkey rope as they relied upon IT systems to fulfill their clinical calling. That monkey rope has almost miraculously inserted me into the sacred trust of caring for those in need. It is a high honor to be holding that clinical monkey rope in the role we CIOs hold. In turn, as a CIO, I have felt the hands of trusted vendors on my monkey rope as we’ve both supported those dependent on our collective services. And now, as a Health Catalyst board member, I sense the vendor’s responsibility as a trusted rope holder.
On a much more personal note, CHIME and other similar collegial professional organizations have introduced another critical monkey rope relationship into my life. It’s impossible to count the number of Grandia rope holders I’ve felt through the years when the seas have seemed most threatening. I hope those of you have felt my gratitude then, and my continued gratitude now, as you have alertly and repeatedly exercised care in my behalf. CHIME has helped provide the connections, but you are the ones who have been there. I would encourage all of us to continue to nurture these types of relationships—they sustain and enrich our professional and personal lives. While my list of rope holders is extensive, some have even become tightly linked to my family. For example, what began as four practicing CIOs , sharing common professional challenges and membership in common professional associations, has become a brotherhood that will bridge mortality for each of us and, also, for our wives. Living in different quadrants of the country, with three of the four of us retired from full time employment, Bill Montgomery, Jim Wagner, Doran Dunaway, and I have never fail to get together at least annually to have fun together, to reminisce, to support….in sum, to be lovingly tied together. These types of bonds are possible. I encourage you to use CHIME and like organizations to ease and broaden yourself, as they have done so for me.
Lastly, Glenna and my children have attached themselves to well-worn knots in my rope. I am what I am because of them.
Thank you for your kind and willing hands on my monkey rope. One of the most sustaining things you can do in the sometimes treacherous role of CIO is to develop monkey rope relationships that endure. Being at both ends of the rope with so many, and for so long, has comforted and enriched my life. I’m confident it will be so for you too.
Success in your endeavors!