Proper Policies Guide You to Organizational Success

Everyone reading this text belongs to an organization: In some case more than one organization. So that we will not diffuse our focus, let's all concentrate on the one type of organization where we have a common interest, the fire department...


If you feel that your department's response to daytime fires should be standard, then you must decide, before hand, which units you wish to send to a particular type of incident. You would then specify the manner in which they are to respond. Something that does not specifically pertain to daytime response should not be a part of any daytime response policy. And so it must be with every aspect of how your fire department operates. There should be a definitive, written policy. This is critical. Otherwise, you might discover that you have several different sub-fire departments operating within your agency.
 
Who makes policy within an organization? Usually policy is a matter for the upper echelons of an agency. It is typically formulated by the individual in charge of the organization or by his designated representatives. Policy must come from the top so that it is broad-based enough to bring all members of the group into conformance with the mainstream of group thoughts and actions.
 
It is in the arena of policy development where the best leaders really get to show their stuff. They are so thoroughly conversant with the people in the organization and the ways in which they work, that they are able to distill the true essence of the operation. They are so thoroughly trusted by the members of the organization that their requests for help from the troops are met with enthusiastic support. 
 
True leaders had their finger on the pulse of the fire department.   This knowledge, when coupled with their skills at creating consensus, allowed them to develop a solid focus for their fire department. They were then able to follow through and lead their people in the proper direction. Let me now share with you my view of the policy-making process.
 
The first step in any policy development scenario involves setting the objective to be accomplished by the policy matter under consideration. Once this has been accomplished, some individual must be charged with the responsibility for assembling the necessary resources to study the issues surrounding the policy study.
 
You must be sure to search far and wide for possible solutions. I have found that it is the rare problem that has not been solved by someone else in another place. Study the various model codes, research documents, trade journals, professional texts or come in contact with members of other fire departments around the country. Do not overlook the value to be derived from membership in professional associations. By being active professionally, you can develop a network of personal and professional acquaintances. It may be that someone has already written your policy for you. So search far and wide for information. We have used this approach on a number of occasions.
 
It is critical for you to read and review the professional literature that you receive. The effective leader is enthusiastic about learning and shares this motivation with their troops. While this might seem like an obvious next stage in your policy drafting process, many people gather reams of data, only to overlook most of it and write what pleases them and call it their policy.
 
It has long been my contention that the more that you know about any given topic, the better able will you be to handle yourself in any discussion on the merits of your proposed policy. It is easy to tell when you are speaking with someone who has only a superficial knowledge of a particular topic. They deal in surface generalities. They can speak about none of the necessary background facts and details. Do not become this type of person. Gather the necessary facts to set the stage for your efforts at writing policy. Become the knowledge expert.
 
I would suggest that you will eventually come to a point where you feel that you have enough information to proceed. At this time you must decide whether to go it alone and write the policy yourself; or build a team to study the information you have gathered, with an eye to brain storming for fresh ideas.   I would urge the use of many divergent opinions, if at all possible. People will have a better buy in on any thing that they have had a hand in creating. This is called the buy-in factor.
 
An important point that must be discussed here deals with the amount of specialized technical knowledge that might be needed to write the policy.  If you wish to write a policy handling the disposal of leaking drums of toxic material, it would be nice if you were able to gather a group of people who know something of how to handle leaking drums.