Fire Department Tool

Aug 10, 2021

Use the Fire Department Tool: Stop Solving the Same Issues Over and Over Again

Have you ever stopped to wonder or observe how a city fire department works? On the surface, or to the public, we see heroes who regularly save lives and show great courage in the face of real or possible danger. They literally rescue people. That’s just the part we see and hear about. You could even say it’s the sexy part! Great stories of heroism make the news, but what we don’t see is that fire departments spend most of their time focusing on fire prevention. They regularly make unannounced visits to businesses to ensure they are up to fire code. They offer fire prevention education to the community. They warn the community when risks are high and enforce the rules when someone is not following them. They put lots of thought, organization and effort into preventing fires, and yet, fires still happen. 

When the fire is detected, the first thing the fire department does is, quite simply: they extinguish the fire! They rescue the people and pets! 

When the fire is out and the people are rescued, their job is not over. They go back to the fire once the embers have cooled and they investigate. They dig, dig, dig, to get to the root cause of the fire, ask multiple questions of the witnesses or people involved, and report their findings. Why do they do this? (We’ll leave the insurance companies out of this example for now. ☺) They do this so that we can continue to learn and educate ourselves on how to prevent a fire next time. What if we took that approach when we rescued our people, or put out their proverbial fires? 

Here’s how you can be more like a fire department and help your people learn how to think, even when rescue is involved. 

Step One: Put out the fire: Do it, rescue your people. Do it for them, take the task right out of their hands if something is on fire, but steps two and three must follow for this tool to work.

Step Two: Put that issue on the Issues List: An Issues List is just a parking lot of obstacles, barriers, ideas and opportunities. If you are running your company on EOS and you’ve rolled it out completely, every person in your company will have access to an Issues List. If you don’t have one, you can start one right away by just taping a piece of paper to a wall and writing the word ISSUES at the top. It's that simple. After you’ve put out the fire, put that fire on the Issues List. For example, one of my clients installs flooring for large corporate buildings. One day, an installer had started to spread the concrete only to find that the color seemed off. When he asked his boss what to do, his boss had to tell him exactly what to do to remedy the situation or it would have been a million-dollar mistake. In theory, the boss could have coached the employee by asking him to think through what the causes could be, asked him about his process, reviewed a training video, etc. But that approach would have been irresponsible toward the client and the company. The boss quickly made the changes necessary and the job got back on track immediately. Most managers just leave the situation there and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The manager is the hero again and all is well. But a great manager adds this issue to the Issues List. The issue is not solved! The embers of that fire are still glowing and are about to flare up again at any moment. 

Step Three: Solve the issue forever as a team using the IDS pattern: Great managers have a set time, usually once a week, when they can work through issues. By saving the topic for this meeting, they ensure that they can follow the IDS pattern in a methodical way to get to the heart of the issues, the hot embers, if you will. The Issues Solving Track in EOS teaches that to solve issues effectively, first you need to Identify the issue at its root, then Discuss ideas related to solving that root issue, then Solve the issue by deciding what needs to be done next. By solving the issue as a team, everyone gets a chance to think out loud, ask what went wrong, discuss the scenario, think of possible solutions for next time, and have additional training if necessary. This is where you can solve for the long term and prevent fires, too.

Think like a fire chief! Rescue your people if you need to, then investigate the cause with your team to prevent future emergencies!

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