The Kitchen Table Debrief – MAYDAY! The Goodness Spec
“MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Fire Department Obstacles Are Killing Us! MAYDAY!”
In this “Kitchen Table Debrief” I will propose some techniques to help avoid common obstacles when documenting SOPs/SOGs. Actually, some of these issues exist in more than just our documented processes, but this is how they most often rear their ugly heads!
I have a confession to make. Actually, I have several confessions to make, but I think I’ll limit myself to only a few for this article:
My Fire Department does not have a complete set of Standard Operating Procedures / Standard Operating Guidelines (SOPs/SOGs) describing all of our process guidelines. I know, I know! I feel terrible about it, but it is the truth. We have SOME SOPs/SOGs, but we do not have a COMPLETE set.
Now, before you hose-draggers out there start smirking, please read the whole article…
You may wonder why a department would choose not to have a complete set of procedures… I did too. So I decided to review what we had for procedures and update them, and create a list of what we were missing. As I did this I also looked for reasons why we were missing so many. Here is what I found:
Writing a good set of complete SOPs is not an easy task. It is a time consuming and difficult process. My business background has shown me that a few (no, that’s not true,) a lot (OK, that’s not true either. Let’s be honest) MOST processes and/or procedures were poorly developed, incorrect, or written by the wrong people. Many simply do not apply to the task they are supposed to support any more. Many times when a process/procedure is written, the wrong people write it; therefore, it makes no sense and cannot/should not be followed. They are incorrect before the ink is even dry.
Once written they need to be periodically evaluated for applicability and relevance; And they should be upgraded as needed. SOPs/SOGs truly are living documents.
So, while embarking on corrective action for my department, I tried to think “out-of-the-box”: What if all the departments in our responding area followed the same SOP/SOGs?! Nah, that goal was too aggressive. To get consensus across the board would be a very difficult task. But, rather than head back in-the-box, I considered the question: why this is so tough for us?!