The Case for Implementing the Texas Fire Chiefs Association Best Practices – Part 1 – We’ve Never Left One Burning… Why Not Keep Doing What We’ve Been Doing?

05 Feb

TFCA Best Practices - LogoThe fire service is well respected across the country and consistently receives high praise from citizens and business alike. It is not uncommon to hear statements around the fire station like “We’ve never left one burning… Why not keep doing what we’ve been doing? The answer is:

Only Different Leads to a New Destination!!!

Change is hard and the fire service in the United States usually resists change until it is forced upon us. NFPA 1710 was adopted in 2001 as a consensus standard for the operation of substantially career fire departments but it had difficult to attain metrics that were expensive to implement so we ignored most of the standard and concentrated on discussing the staffing required and the capital investment required to meet response times.

We didn’t even address the majority of NFPA 1710 because it challenged our administrative practices and our modes of tracking times and performance. To address these issues we need to look at how we are currently operating, ask questions about how we could become more efficient and effective in our administrative practices and operations and then make changes that would facilitate those performance improvements.

To know where we want to go we should first assess the institutional history of our fire department. Knowing where we’ve been and how we got to where we are today will elucidate our values and our culture. Next we need to consider who we want to be in the future. What does the fire department look like in the next 10 to 20 years if it is done right? This is a difficult question that will require vision and planning on the part of fire department executive and senior staff. Once we know where we’ve been, where we are and where we want to go; we will need a process to get us there.

Please consider the following diagram as a model for getting us from the PRESENT to our PREFERRED FUTURE.

Change ModelingIn this diagram, the “Present” represents where we are now and everything that is true about our fire department’s current situation. There is an axiom that says, “Your organization is perfectly designed to produce the results that you are currently experiencing.” The “Present” in the diagram represents the way things are in our department.  Effective or ineffective communication.  A surplus of leaders or a shortage of leaders.  High morale or low morale.  Whatever our fire department is producing…is a direct result of its current design.

“Probable Future” is where we’ll end up if nothing big changes. We can make a few tweaks here and there and still end up in the area called the “probable future”.

“Possible Future” is EVERYTHING imaginable that could happen.

The “Preferred Future” is where you dream of ending up if everything went RIGHT. Notice that the preferred future extends beyond the possible future. If everything we did went right, some of the things that aren’t possible now would be possible then. (Think about that one for a while.)

On the other hand, If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’ve been getting. To get to the preferred future, we have to significantly change the trajectory of our current course. Small tweaks here and there will not break the inertia of habitual thinking and decision making that leads to the “probable future”.

When considering the diagram, realize that the “Present” is the “Probable Future” of decisions made in the “Past.” Reaching our “Preferred Future” will require a change in our current administrative and operational practices. Again, change is hard and it’s even harder when we aren’t even sure what changes need to be made.

The Texas Fire Chiefs Association Best Practices Program provides a blue print for making those changes. Respected members of the Fire Service from across the State of Texas have developed 117 Best Practices for fire departments and challenged the Texas fire service to engage a process of innovation as they strive to meet these best practices.

Progress is always preceded by change.

Change is always preceded by challenge.

Challenging the status quo is often where leadership begins.

(Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge)

The Case for Implementing the Texas Fire Chief’s Association Best Practices – Part 1 – We’ve Never Left One Burning… Why Not Keep Doing What We’ve Been Doing?

The Case for Implementing the Texas Fire Chief’s Association Best Practices – Part 2 – Change is Hard… So How Can We Use the Theory of Diffusion of Innovation to Help Us Improve?

The Case for Implementing the Texas Fire Chiefs Association Best Practices – Part 3 – The Texas Fire Chief’s Association Best Practices Recognition Program – What Is It?

The Case for Implementing Texas Fire Chiefs Association Best Practices – Part 4 – The Texas Fire Chief’s Association Best Practices Recognition Program – Why It Was Important For The Irving Fire Department


All information contained in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official views of the City of Irving or the Irving Fire Department.

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