Organisation in chaos? Emergencies erupting? Been blind-sided by the unexpected? Project a few years late and still does not work? Need to get things under control? Make way for the Corporate Fire Fighter. (Phew!)
This trusted pair of hands hits the ground running….makes rapid assessment of situation….. takes urgent action …… reports an outstanding success …….moves onto the next big fire.
You could be thinking, “Hey that’s me!”. Agreed fire-fighting can be fun, exhilarating and very rewarding for those involved. Your organisation may place a high degree of recognition and reward on people with these skills.
But is this a measure of a healthy and successful organisation?
Would an alternative model be of a highly organised machine where everything fits strategically together; risks are identified and addressed early; projects invariably deliver on time, cost & quality; business metrics provide robust leading indicators. Achieving that level of capability is difficult, very difficult.
An organisation may not have this level maturity for any number of reasons. They may be a business start-up and just about managing to keep a lid on issues as the business grows. They may be working in a highly innovative sector where new products and competitors frequently appear to “eat your lunch”.
But what about the fire starters? The leaders who raise the alarm? Is this the right thing to do?
I am no expert on management leadership & behaviour theory. It might be just the right thing to do to keep people on their toes? Creating a crisis can be a good way to drive things forward. Or is it a reactive and costly approach?
Ultimately I think it comes down to looking at the root-cause and fixing what/who caused the crisis in the first place rather than heroic fire-fighting.