Sunday, June 24, 2012

Micro Manager Metric Maniacs

The overwrought alliteration shows my disdain.  They are everywhere, but they use code words to describe themselves.  I’m “detail oriented” they say.  Never will one introduce themselves and say, “hi, I’m a micromanager.”   Their involvement in every aspect of operations is necessary, because no one can live up to their expectations. 

One chief who was an administrative nightmare to work for had many of these characteristics.   I called him a “shotgun manager.”  He never met an idea he didn’t like, so there were a hundred projects all in progress at the same time.  Because of this and the necessity for his involvement in everything—he couldn’t delegate to save his life—that meant that nothing ever was completed.  Since everything was a priority, nothing was.  Luckily, he wasn’t like this on the fire ground (fire ground micromanagers are even more scary) , and to this chief’s credit, he eventually evolved, changed, and improved, but that is the exception with this type of manager, not the rule. 

The data collectors are worse.  They never met a metric or measurement they didn’t like.  Just because an activity is quantifiable doesn’t mean it should be.  The argument is that the “workers” only do well what is checked—so these guys check everything.  When we measure everything, the same shotgun result occurs.  Since everything is a priority, nothing really is. 

My contention has long been there are typically four or five big important things that make an organization successful.  Measure and take good care of those, and everything else—the details—will take care of themselves.  I never thought it was rocket science, but maybe it is.  Einstein said “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Open Letter to a New Fire Officer

You are about to take that first important jump in rank.  It might get you a different color helmet.  It definitely will change other things. 

You’re a good firefighter, but you’re young and will be moving up over more experienced firefighters, some of which are your friends.  There are mixed emotions.  How you respond to this is a test in your capacity for greater responsibility.  Not everyone wants promotion, and reaching a level of satisfaction is not a bad thing.  Some of your friends are content at their present level and job. 
 The important and difficult part of managing your buddies is perspective and balance.  You can’t let them get away with murder on the one hand, but a domineering heavy hand is no good on the other.  Finding the balance point is easier said than done, and will take time, trial, and error.  Anyone who tells you they know exactly where that is, well, they’re lying to you.  The good guys under you will want you to succeed.  Those that don’t, and they are out there, will be easily identified.  Even though some will attempt to undermine your authority, treat them fairly.  That doesn’t mean you let them succeed with their obstructionism, but by not lowering yourself to their level, others will notice. 

  Lead by example, both in the station and on the fire ground.  Show, don’t tell.  A good officer doesn’t have to talk a lot to earn respect and get others to follow.  Treat the firefighters under you the way you wanted officers to treat you. 

At every level, somebody moves up, and others do not; it is how it is.  By now you’ve seen good, bad, and great officers.  Take the characteristics of those you like and respect, and emulate them.  As importantly, avoid those of the officers you don’t. 

Be accepting of change, but not unthinkingly.  All change isn’t bad, but it isn’t all good either.  The rookies will frustrate you at times.  Some may not progress as quickly as you think they should.  Try to learn patience.  Everyone learns in different ways and rates.  Mentoring is a long game, and sometimes goes into overtime. 

 You know already that the right people don’t always get the promotions, and so does everyone else.  Putting on a new helmet doesn’t make you an officer.  Your actions and attitude do that. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

You Might Be A Redneck Firefighter if....

Fire is fire regardless of where you work, and fire departments are full of folks with unusual personalities.  My experiences in fighting fire in a rural area have given me an appreciation for the unique characteristics of the country.  So, with that in mind, you might be a redneck firefighter if…….

The soda machine in the station is actually filled with Rolling Rock.

There is a sign-out sheet in the station to show who borrowed the engine battery for their tractor.

The tanker port-a-pond doubles as the community pool during the summer. 

The dirt in front of the station looks like black top….from tobacco “juice.” 

The station has the manual from the department's 1958 engine—sold 20 years ago—and the envelope was never opened. 

One of the towns founding families has three roads named after them—all the same. 

Cow versus car is almost as common in the run log book as car versus deer. 

You would need mutual aid from three counties to get a single engine out for a car fire one day a year—the opening of deer season. 

The helmet you wear is older than half your members.