Firefighting

Spend a lot of your time firefighting? It’s a funny metaphor, because one group of people who don’t are firefighters. The fire service spends a huge amount of its effort, through education, regulation and other activities, trying to reduce the amount of time that it spends doing the thing it is assumed that they do – fighting fires.

For the rest of us, though, it’s not quite the same. Want to get praise and adoration in your working environment – well, put out some fires, be a hero, save the project.

But if your world is one where you can only justify your own existence through the solving of problems that are of your own creation, you’re in trouble long term. That’s where IT has been – and why commodity services have become so pervasive so quickly. The IT team wins no points for fixing stuff that’s gone wrong when someone else can be providing that stuff without it failing all the time. It’s where other sectors (not least marketing and communications) are increasingly finding themselves.

The trouble is that big actions get praise and respect – people don’t win kudos for doing things that stop disasters happening, certainly not in comparisons to the heroes that mobilise at times of crisis. But it’s a short-term strategy to fight fires. Eventually people will realise that you’re not providing a huge amount of value.

Don’t fight fires – prevent them. Educate, facilitate, regulate. But don’t stoke or fan.

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