Decision-Making for the Fainthearted

When I sat down at the computer to begin work on this little session with you, I was torn in a number of directions. Should I write about something interpersonal, something technical, or something from my career in the fire service? I had trouble making...


Decision made under the project-management chain cover the day-to-day operations of the fire department, as well as any special projects which may be on-going. These decisions may be routine in nature, such as the management of a budget, or determining which inspections will be conducted next week. They might also bear on the development of special projects such as new stations, new programs, or a long-range apparatus replacement plan. 
 
It is critical for me to stress at this point that the primary thing which must be stressed to you is that you must recognize that a problem exists. If you do not see a problem, you cannot solve a problem. Unfortunately, people sometimes tend to react to problems with an air of denial. Some of the ways in which people deal (or do not deal) with problems are:
 
·                     Deny that a problem exists
·                     Camouflage the problems
·                     Blame someone else
 
Far too many of you live to use the last one. You blame and blame until it just doesn’t work any more. Then when you finally come to the realization that a problem exists, you will discover that the need exists to have a plan for making the necessary decisions in your life. Based upon many years of research, experimentation, and the actual living of life, I have decided upon a basic seven-step plan for making decisions within our personal and professional lives:
 
·                     Recognize that a problem exists
·                     Analyze the data surrounding the situation
·                     Develop alternative solutions which seem to fit the situation
·                     Evaluate the alternatives to see which one will probably fit your needs best
·                     Choice one
·                     Do it
·                     Evaluate the feedback and make adjustments as necessary
 
And if the solution does not work, select another. If none of your solutions works then it may well be necessary to go back to step one. Redefine the problem and reanalyze the data. Work the system until you get it right. That will equal a solved problem.
 
While it may be difficult to remember all of the steps, we would urge you to commit them to memory. We would also strongly advise that you use them in order. Do not jump steps or jump to obvious conclusions. This can lead to problems, and problems are what you are attempting to solve with your decision-making process.
 
Let me strongly suggest that if you aspire to become a fire chief, you had best make your mind up to do one thing: learn how to make a decision! Decisions are the things that fire chiefs get paid to do: whether that salary comes in dollars or personal satisfaction. And you certainly cannot make a decision if you are too tied up in the mechanisms of making that decision. You've got to make decisions, not study things to death. In other words, get off the dime and do some decisions.
 
One of the primary criteria for judging an effective chief is that person's ability to make decisions on at daily basis, in a timely fashion and only when that decision must be made by the chief. That's right, not every decision has to be made by the chief. It is the mark of a good chief that he or she lets others make decisions at the lowest appropriate level possible.
 
That's what this article is all about. It is our goal to provide you with a good decision-making system, pat you on the head and send you out into the cold cruel world to earn your way in that old fashioned way; one hard decision at a time.
 
As we stated earlier, a decision is the conscious choice of an action in response to a problem, based upon a given set of circumstances. So what are we saying? To make a decision requires making a choice with a real-world scenario. There are two basic types of decisions:
 
A.        Programmed
B.        Non-programmed
 
A programmed decision is one which you expect to make on a regular basis. These are the routine decisions that are the bread and butter of your operation. You will have to repeatedly respond to box alarms, order fuel oil for the fire station and deliver replacement equipment. These are the types of decisions which should be covered by standard operating procedures (SOP's). This frees up your mind for the non programmed, or exceptional decisions which will require the whole of your decision-making time and talents.