Well, I am still not on vacation. It is right around the corner but I have a few difficult days to get through before I get to leave.
I never in my life thought that I would not want to go to a city council meeting. I have always been interested in local government and how it works. Listening to the citizens and city leaders discuss the business of the city. It is a pure for of government that works wonders in the right hands.
Lately I have dreaded going. The ideas of a few misguided citizens have gotten some traction and somehow the city leadership let it happen.
It is much like a small infection that takes hold and can only be killed by the truth. The only problem is that the truth medicine won’t work if you think the infection is good for you. They have had the infection before. They thought it was good for them because they felt good when they were infected. What they didn’t realize was that the infection that made them feel good was destroying the infrastructure. So much so that it has taken 5 years to heal.
So they have been infected again. The good part about having the infection these days is that there are new treatments. We recently spent almost $10,000 out of our budget to kill the infection. We brought in some specialists. We thought we had it whipped. Boy were we wrong. A few carriers of the infection have stepped in front the city leaders and infected them again. And they let it happen!
I have told them that we were healed. I told them that we were moving on. I told them that we have systems in place to not be infected again. They believed me…….for a little while because I told the truth. But then the group of carriers with their deadly infection danced in front of the city leadership like snake charmers and infected them again. We are infected……AGAIN!!!
So once again, I am on the ropes, defending myself and my organization against this infection. We have power as a group so we will stick together. We will fight back against the infection and hopefully we will keep the carriers from coming back again. We will see. I am trying to stay optimistic. I don’t know if we have as much outside support as we did before but we will make it. We are right, they are wrong. If wrong wins, that will tell us how bad the infection is and I will be riding the jump seat again.
Enough with the metaphors. I promised the last time I would start in on the 6R plan that I have developed to for successful operations. So here goes:
6R is loosely based on 6 Sigma, a data based system for quality control and improvement in a manufacturing system. I spent a great deal of time working in manufacturing over the years and became familiar with the system. The logic is that you have quantifiable data to track progress and project completion. Data that can be used as a basis for future improvement and quality control. It also identifies your “internal” and “external” customers. Both things are of great benefit to the fire service, especially in today’s fire departments.
The first R is RESPECT! Just like Aretha Franklin said, you find out what it means to you. In the fire service, respect for each other, for the department leadership, city leadership, for department resources, citizens and stakeholders should be paramount. It is that respect that makes the image of your department what it is. It is what forms the public face of your organization through your interaction with the public and leaders. If you show disrespect to any of the people or things listed above, you will suffer the consequences.
If you don’t have respect for each other (internal customers), you will have conflict that spills out into the streets. You will end up with people that can’t work with each other. I don’t need to go into everything that comes with that.
If you don’t respect department leaders (internal customers), you will hold up progress and not be willing to accomplish tasks that need to be completed. You don’t have to like the person but you need to respect the position they are in. If the are any level below the Chief, they have, or should have, projects or tasks assigned to them that may get delegated to you and the crews. You have to respect the fact that they have a job to do and you are part of it.
If you don’t respect the city leadership (internal customers), you are biting the hands that feed you. They write the checks and control more than you think. They are captains of the ship you are on so you have to respect their ability to make decisions that affect the direction of the ship. Some departments think they are an isolated island and can make their own way. They find out that they are not on an island the hard way. Layoffs are the first thing that comes to mind.
If you disrespect the department equipment, you will arrive at alarms with shitty looking equipment that doesn’t work correctly. That, in turn, makes the citizens wonder if you care at all. Also, you performance is affected. On the medical side, your poor performance may mean the difference between life or death. On the fire side, it could also mean the difference between life and death but also could mean the difference between property loss and conservation.
If you don’t respect the citizens, no matter what their station in life, you are not suited for this business. The people you serve are the ones who benefit the most from your efforts. They are the “external customers” so they should be the ones to see the polished finished product. They don’t need excuses about how you don’t like so and so. They don’t need stories about how the city council didn’t agree with your union objectives. They don’t care that you didn’t get the shiny new toy you wanted because your Chief said he didn’t have the money. THEY DON”T CARE. They have an emergency (most of the time), you are there, HANDLE IT!!!!! Respect their need for you!
Respect is the first thing on the list. Next time we will talk about response.
I can almost smell the ocean. Vacation is right around the corner!