fire-driven management

Are you or your company doing fire-driven management?
Are you (mis)using your people to put out fires as they gain ferocity and urgency?

You might not have realized it, but for all the talk about strategy, the practice is more widespread than one might think.

It’s hard indeed to try and keep a holistic vision and any semblance of a strategy if you’re putting out fires all the time. That’s what I call fire-driven management. Diverting people from task to task in a sort of deranged prioritizing of urgent problems (guess we could parody here agile terms and say “grooming the fire backlog”? :D )

If you find yourself in a situation like this, a difficult exercise is due:

  • Stop putting out the fires like a headless chicken (if you prefer headless chicken managament…)
  • Realize that most likely these fires sprouting in different corners of your house may well be your fault
  • But… as opposed to a real fire, these can be ignored for a moment. Pause, evaluate the situation, decide what remediation courses you can take, and start with the easiest (a.k.a. the least painful)
  • It could well be the case that, ultimately, some of those fires are not that urgent, they just seem so because of the inherent false urgency instilled into today’s corporate atmosphere
  • Proceed to pour water on the fire, not more kerosene (meaning, improve your process, fire people if you have to and start getting things right, there is a very big chance you know the problems and the solutions deep inside, only it might be painful to acknowledge to those)

Don’t think very much more has to be said about fire-driven management.

Most likely you’ve already seen in action in the past.

Use those extinguishers!!

originally posted at

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