Firefighting core values
We think planning is important. And our attempts at deriving scenarios to help prepare a response are laudable. It is also what we should be doing in order to successfully weather the storm.
But that is not all we should be doing. Planning becomes crucial only when it’s followed by and accompanied by action. Deep action. The kind of action which spans across silos, procedures, processes, policies down to company and employee culture.
Turbulent times like these ask us difficult questions: what does it really come down to when we talk about our corporate culture and values? Is that as important now? Has it maybe become crucial?
While writing this analysis, we researched what firefighters in general hold as core values. The comparison is evident because these are the people for whom every situation is an unpredicted crisis which always demands the exact same response. It is built purely of randomness.
A study published on researchgate.net, entitled ‘Professional values of firefighters’, cites the following, most recurrent values (from a study among different firefighting squads from Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Toronto…): integrity, responsibility, courage, community, adaptability.
You may have read or seen some of these values displayed on a company’s website or walls but in conditions such as those of firefighting squads, these values take on a whole new dimensional meaning.
So the first step we can take in the DOING is to rethink and revisit our core company values:
Integrity is doing the right thing in a reliable way, without waiver. A firefighter must trust his fellow team mates to always have his back and vice-versa. This can only be achieved when trust is not only assumed but ingrained in a culture. This trust can take multiple forms in an organization and in a consultancy firm such as ours this translates into allowing our employees to be independent (but supported with whatever they need) enough to be able to follow through with their projects and in turn, we rely on them to always have both of our best interests at heart.
Responsibility has many meanings and definitions so it’s important to take the time and think about what this means as a value for your organization. Is it having control over your work, or your actual duties or maybe is shifts more towards accountability and accepting the consequences? Whatever it is, in times of crisis any organization should prepare for defining the scope of what responsibility entails for all its people.
Courage has many beautiful definitions and one of our favorites is actually the official Wikipedia one: the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Pay attention to the use of words: courage does not mean accepting discomfort or pain but rather confronting it. For an organization and its people confronting the unknown is a skill which can only be built by practicing discomfort as much as possible: in a confined, safe way where it’s allowed to fail (and fast). It is said that true champions don’t win trophies: they just come to pick them up at competitions because the true winning has already been done during practice, away from the crowd’s soars.
Community is often overlooked, or its impact minimized because it is assumed that any gathering of people working towards a common goal or mission (such as an organization, regardless of its shape) constitute a community. But the notion of community invites us to think how one individual can make a difference in society. And how the sum of these differences come together to shape how a community looks like, what it does and what it stands for. In times like these, each individual part of an organization is invited to dismiss the all-too common “but I am just one person” and instead follow it with “…and that’s exactly why I should contribute”
Adaptability means finding a way to evolve with the environment. As we have shown in the THINKING section, our world is not a deterministic system. It has much randomness to it and by the law of exponential growth, the less we adapt the more we will have to change (change being more brutal and swift than adaptation is). The way an organization adapts is by constantly “injecting” doses of randomness into its activities: challenging the status-quo from time to time, taking on small but risky projects, encouraging fail-fast initiatives, stress-testing its core values. Whatever it may be, the secret is not to stay in place for too long and move before it has become necessary.