Are you trying to fire-fight your way to success?
Every modern business, no matter who they are has limited resources in terms of time, people, equipment, etc. In reality, this translates into every business experiencing more problems than they have people with the time or knowledge to deal with them. This situation forces an organization to become trapped into a vicious cycle of re-activity called “firefighting.”
An organization that experiences re-occurring frustration with their day-to-day activities is suffering from a condition that we refer to as “fire-fighting overload.“ It is a serious condition because it creates the illusion that crisis is normal, and a quick and dirty fix is the best method for overcoming any problem.
In reality, fire-fighting distracts a company from initiating real problem solving activities. Like it or not, most organizations have developed a culture where “fire-fighting” is firmly established as an acceptable practice. This translates into overworked employees having to jump through the same hoops to deal with the same crisis day in, day out! Productivity suffers, while customer satisfaction and employee morale are low.
How did it develop?
These things don’t happen overnight, they are gradually introduced over time. As members of a management team exit, new ones arrive with a different agenda. Collectively, little by little, each one deals with problems in their own way. Eventually, the business culture becomes defined and established! It is the main culprit, because it initiated, developed and institutionalized the fire-fighting practices on two levels.
- It generates the internal pressure on the system, and creates an ideal environment for combustion. Next, it encourages employees to participate in knee jerk activities to get around a problem at hand. The employees think they are doing a good thing and supporting their company, however, figuratively speaking they are accomplices as fire setting arsonists. They perpetuate the re-active approach to problems.
- When a crisis re-emerges, the business culture forces the management team to call for individuals to step-up and volunteer. Every day, these individuals focus their valuable time and effort on putting out fires. Some will be so good at it, that they will go on to become fire-fighting heroes. Every business has them firmly embedded and on-call, at a moments notice.
How do you change it?
So, what does a management team do to stop the cycle of re-activity? Do they ask people to stop putting out fires? What happens to the business if they do?
The truth is, most management teams don’t know how to stop this pervasive pattern of behavior! Why? They are trapped into the same crazy system as their employees, because they must juggle which resources and people are available to contain the problems.
The fact is, before you can solve a problem, you have to recognize there is a problem. Many management teams don’t realize that they create, encourage and support the fire-fighting arsonists in their organization! To change the environment, they must change their way of thinking. They must start by establishing a problem solving mindset, and not continuing to support quick and dirty fixes as a solution!
The best way forward for anyone trying to understand how to end a destructive fire-fighting cycle and establish a problem solving methodology is to participate in our lean manufacturing training and certification courses.