Fire fighting

This is a common term used in System Operations. IT teams in banks or corporates would refer urgent maintenance as Fire Fighting. They handle large amount of data. Once problem exists, it needs urgent care or else the system may cost a lot of loss.

Why does Fire exist?

Most of the time, it was accident, or due to careless mistake. Sometimes, it is merely urgent feature request from client.

In the past weekend, I was facing exactly the last issue. In a system maintenance work I am consulting for, the client was rushing their own deadline. The team over there shall edit the contents before launch in two weeks. Apparently, they are having a tough schedule, and thus complaining the system hard to use.

They requested some feature changes to the system, and needed it at shortest time possible.

How to prevent Fire?

Actually fire can be prevented. The main way is to get more preparations. This would also mean giving it more time.

In the management style nowadays, as computer is easier to access, people forget the importance of effective management. Most workers choose to start working at the latest time point, thinking that things can be done quick. However, they were changing mind so frequently as they think the use of computers should allow changes often. The two combined means changing frequently in short period of time, causing fire fighting situations.

If people starts working earlier, give it more time, most problems can be solved in better ways.

The other solution, which is promoted by lean startup, is to create simple solution. In here, I mean simple, not simpler. Simple solution solves one particular problem. It also allows the implementation of lighter system. The benefits are smaller code base, and easier to maintain.

What to do during Fire Fighting?

When it comes, you should tackle it. Nothing is really urgent, when you can see it in slow pace.

This can be done by having a clearer mind. I have done one thing wrong over the weekend, which was overriding a subset of data. This is not too serious. The client just need to update that subset once again. Yet, this can be prevented by doing the followings:

  1. Get enough sleep — Adult shall sleep at least 8 hours a day
  2. Meditation as first thing in the morning — it helps to clean up your mind
  3. Write down the steps — it is a small plan, where you can follow during execution without limiting yourselves in long run
  4. Automate the process — I love this. The more automation is available, the less errors are caused.


Many problems can be prevented by giving it more time, preparing in advance, and automating the process. This weekend was another learning lesson.