The Kitchen Table Debrief – MAYDAY! The Goodness Spec
First some background: There are many organizational models describing how different fire departments are set up: municipalities, independent, by region, by district, etc., etc., etc. The particular model we follow is: multiple, independently-chartered fire districts within a town. This means that there is no one, town-wide Chief. Each fire district is autonomous with our own Chief. Recently, I was one of these Chiefs.
It is not the goal of this article to debate the pros and cons of such an operational model, but it is simply to explain the particular environment I operate in. The issues encountered in this environment are similar to other models, so it has no unique bearing on the outcome.
I would not be surprised if, in most cases, the organizational model your department follows also makes it difficult to share and organize information with other departments. None of us are organized that way! (OK, maybe a couple of you lucky ones are, but MOST Departments are not!)
Also, it is human nature that as soon as two people work together, one tries to manage the other as defined by a hierarchy. As soon as three of us work together, we introduce politics, competition, and begin developing agendas working against each other. Not always, but usually. Either way, when one group tries to control or force their opinions on others, the instinctual response is to push back, resist, and dig in.
If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, brother (/sister), consider yourself lucky, and move on to the next article!
So, within this environment, there are several obstacles to having good documentation. Here are the most detrimental obstacles, in my opinion:
1. We don’t want documentation (SOPs/SOGs in particular)
2. We assign the wrong people to write them
3. We allow our SOPs to become outdated
4. We adopt the “not invented here” (NIH) philosophy
5. We allow SOPs to all be “one-pagers”
Notice “WE” is prominently in these obstacles. As cartoonist Walt Kelly once wrote in his famous POGO comic strip: “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”