Business Firefighting… Defining Success for the Crisis at Hand

October 15 2012, By , No Comments

Philosopher, poet, and cultural critic, George Santayana once said, “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”  This quote hits the bulls-eye for why everyone needs to define success before they engage any opportunity.  This is because success is very hard to find when we don’t know what it looks like.

When firefighters arrive on-scene of a large fire they are confronted with a myriad of problems, obstacles, and challenges.  Experienced firefighting leaders know, in most cases, that the main problem is the fire.  The quicker the fire is dealt with the more lives and property saved.  So they will define success as knocking down the flames as quickly as possible… priority one problem solved, and success achieved!

However, when a crisis occurs we all need to start thinking differently.  Even for firefighters who spend their professional lives either preparing for, or dealing with emergency situations, something out of the ordinary, like a major earthquake, is a crisis.   Suddenly pulling up to the first fire we see and knocking down the flames doesn’t necessarily define success anymore.  In the immediate aftermath of an earthquake, firefighting leaders need to consider what else has happened during the shaking that we don’t yet know about?

The fire service is in a continuous learning mode in order to be prepared for the next alarm – the next customer.  One best practice for a crisis situation is that the definition of success includes rapidly identifying problems in order to prioritize which problems need attention first, second… and so on. Do we attack the house fire, or do we let it burn in order to evacuate neighborhoods below the dam that has experienced significant damage? Difficult decisions are made easier with real time factual information.

In your business, success is probably defined in a certain way for the everyday routine.  So when a crisis occurs it is extremely important to re-evaluate your definition of success.  Because a crisis can occur with or without warning, a desirable outcome is going to depend upon your team’s ability to quickly define what the “new” success looks like.

Whichever way you define success in your environment, when a crisis strikes and suddenly you and your team are forced into “firefighting” mode… someone needs to redefine success. Take aim to quickly identify problems, prioritize actions, and communicate precisely what the “new” definition of success looks like.

Defining success for the crisis at hand ensures that your team will always be able to prioritize the problems and limit the damage.   The quicker the crisis is “knocked down” the quicker everyone can get back to the routine of defining success… one opportunity at a time.

About the Author:

Tom Pandola is a Leadership Trainer and Consultant delivering real word leadership principles to individuals, business teams and organizations. After 25 years with the LAFD and serving as a captain and battalion chief, Tom moved on to business leadership positions and discovered how the same principles that allowed him to successfully lead others to navigate the dangers and challenges of firefighting and rescue operations, also produces success in everyday business.

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