Leadership: Are You A Fire Fighter or a Fire Marshall?


In your organization today, are you always putting out ‘fires’?  How do you reverse that and become a ‘Fire Marshall’ vs. a ‘Fire Fighter’? As a Fire Marshall, it is their responsibility to be proactive and prevent fires. However, when you are putting out fires, it is easy to fall in that trap of always in damage control mode.  It becomes addictive, creating bad habits.

In my business, Mobile One Courier & Logistics we handle mission critical deliveries for the medical industry, lawyers and spare parts logistics.  With half our business being ‘On-Demand’ last minute deliveries, It can become a  chaotic world in our dispatch trying to coordinate it all at times.  If we are not on top of things, it can turn south fast. When that happens, the fire fighting begins. Problems occur, then we put resources for damage control.  It takes considerable amount of momentum to get back on track.

To become a ‘Fire Marshall’, we started focusing on the important things (Quadrant II for you Covey readers) versus the urgent as much.  There will always be urgent things or the whirlwind in our business. As a leader, it is my responsibility to find those important things that prevent the urgent ones. By focusing on a select few vital things, prevents many fires.  We identified the problems we constantly had and asked ourselves, what can we do to prevent those.  Seems simplistic, but actually taking the time to think can be hard to do if you are fighting fires all the time.  We came away with 2 major items that have the largest impact on our delivery division – On Time Performance and having the drivers available to handle the deliveries.  These are the lag measures.  Behind that, we identified the lead measures that impact those.  With that, we have created a compelling score board for the employees and not the managers.  By getting the employees involved with rewards as incentives, we hope to have more buy in or ownership in the process.

So how can you become a ‘Fire Marshall’ in your organization?

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