Sunday, March 29, 2009

Organizational Schizophrenia

Does your fire department or EMS system suffer from Organizational Schizophrenia?

Most career departments have at least three shifts or platoons. A 24-on/48-off shift schedule is fairly common. In this type of department, different shifts often do things in very different ways, based on the personalities of the firefighters, paramedics, and officers that gravitate to that shift. In departments with a Shift Commander position, each shift often mimics the shift commander's personality and ways of doing things.

DANGER, Will Robinson, DANGER!

If your department does things three different ways, you might not have three different sets of outcomes on a routine basis, but you'll have different outcomes when something doesn't go exactly as planned. We are supposed to have standard outcomes - rescue the civilians, extinguish the fire, stop the bleeding, and EVERYONE GOES HOME! Standardized methods are important in achieving standardized outcomes.

When you work another shift that uses different methods or that has different expectations, then it places you in a conflict with that "other" fire department or EMS that uses your vehicle and station when your shift is off duty. Alan Brunacini once said that "The worst possible firefighting strategy is having no plan. The second-worst strategy is having two plans." If you use the methods common to Shift A on a Shift B or C fire, then there will be two conflicting plans in use at the same time. That, my friends, is a recipe for a disaster. If you're the shift commander, using C-Shift expectations when supervising A Shift firefighters is going to cause lots of unnecessary heartburn and probably get someone hurt.

If you all work for the same fire department or EMS, then you all need to do things the same way.

Develop methods that work for everyone, write them down, and enforce them. Doing otherwise ensures Organizational Schizophrenia. Be an Organizational Psychiatrist and cure the disease before it becomes fatal.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin

1 comment:

  1. We started using a Google sites page ( -- (basically a wiki) to keep track of best editorial practices across our sites.

    The wiki format is nice because anyone can update it so no one person gets bogged down with record keeping. Not sure how well this would work for a fire department...


Join the discussion here! The Kitchen Table welcomes comments, but please be respectful. Comments must be approved by the blog administrator before they will appear on the site.

Web Analytics