Perhaps the most important trait for any organization is consistent performance in every aspect of its operation. I cannot think of a single agency that doesn't want to be consistent in how it functions and delivers services or products to its customers. The American fire-rescue service is no...
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Perhaps the most important trait for any organization is consistent performance in every aspect of its operation. I cannot think of a single agency that doesn't want to be consistent in how it functions and delivers services or products to its customers.
The American fire-rescue service is no different. A comment that a fire chief hates to hear is several or even many fire departments are operating under the banner of his or her agency. For example, seven battalions times three shifts could equal 21 small departments within one agency. Some outfits devote a lot of time to achieving and measuring their performance to ensure that they are consistent in all that they do. Other departments place little or no emphasis on consistent performance.
Consistency must include the ability to perform correctly and effectively. We in the fire-rescue service must strive for consistently good or even consistently great performance because lives depend on our abilities. A department's strategic vision should call for consistently great performance by all members and companies all of the time and provide a way to measure the results. This organizational goal is simple to recite and understand, but it is difficult for any agency to achieve, much less one that must work under demanding constraints all of the time.
If standard operating procedures (SOPs) or even the style of hose loads are based on the shift that is working that day, true consistent performance will be difficult to impossible to reach. In some places, core operations change in measurable and visible ways from one platoon to another. If there is a void in operational procedures, if training to support the procedures is not sustainable and in place, or if an agency's policies are not enforced, the outfit will never attain consistently good performance. All of these elements must be in place, described officially and supported organizationally all of the time if the agency is to achieve this highly desirable outcome. In fact, a reward system must be established around attainment of consistency. If the leadership of the agency fails to set standards and provide the needed resources and incentives, the department is destined to varying results and varying community satisfaction levels.
To underscore the importance of this organizational goal, let's talk about an American institution that exudes consistency in products and performance. Many years ago, when Ray Kroc and his McDonald's team put forth the concept of a fast-food hamburger restaurant, the core value would become consistency. Think about the last time you visited a McDonald's restaurant near your home. Then, think about the last time you visited a McDonald's more than 100 miles from your home. What was that experience like? I would be willing to guess that the visit was just like the one at your home-based McDonald's.
I would submit that you enjoy the same tastes, flavors and textures at the remote location. I would further venture to say that the restaurant was reasonably clean with customer service that you have grown to expect from this giant corporation. I am thinking that the pricing was roughly the same, as were the shape and size of the parking lot.
Early into this great economic venture, the management structure figured out that consistency was the way that McDonald's would be a highly profitable corporation. About five decades later, the company is thriving and is a model for consistent performance. The company spends a great deal of time and energy to ensure that a customer's dining experience is a controlled and expected one. We could learn a lot from the model that this fast-food outlet provides for us.