“Poor planning on your part
doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.”
It happens to all of us at some point. You are working hard through your day, when suddenly, the figurative fire alarm goes off.
A co-worker or a client suddenly needs something immediately. It is an emergency. We all have to stop what we are doing and deal with the fire drill.
Suddenly, everyone is scrambling to address the issue at hand and all other tasks go out the window.
Bring on the Fire Drill
So, begins the “fire drill.” You know what happens next. All other priorities get pushed aside. Work in progress gets stopped. Far too many people end up involved in extinguishing the hot situation. How often do these fire drills interrupt your day?
If you are like most, fire drills are a common occurrence in your workplace.
But, what would happen if you chose to say no to the fire drill? Would the earth stop spinning? Would you lose your job?
Let’s consider “5 Reasons To Say No To The Fire Drill…”
1 – The Emergency is Not an Emergency
“I need it now.” “It is overdue.” “We have a serious problem.” These seem to be common statements in our fast-paced work environments.
But, is this really the case? Many so-called fire drills are not really that important. In fact, they may only be the individual’s desire to get something done.
Before you let one of your colleagues interrupt others’ productivity, ensure that the situation is truly important. Otherwise, you may be facing a case of a co-worker “crying wolf,” or even worse, selfishly putting their priorities ahead of everyone else’s.
2 – The Fire Drill is Worse Than the Fire
Many people panic when a fire drill happens. All current work gets dropped and much time is lost running around figuring out how to deal with the issue. But, we often forget about the impact of all the work that gets derailed. How many other balls got dropped as a result of the fire drill? What is the cost in time and money?
Sometimes, putting out the fire actually costs more than the fire itself.
Does it really makes sense to incur the cost if the solution is worse than the problem? I have seen a dozen executives locked in a meeting room to debate a minor issue. How much did that cost in lost opportunities, but also in $/hr?
3 – Putting Out the Fire Covers up the Lesson Learned
Sometimes the efforts to put out the fire covers up the lesson to be learned. Often, what caused the fire drill in the first place is lost during the subsequent efforts to extinguish the fire.
Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to address the hot issue immediately. However, try be aware of the lesson to be learned from the situation. If improvements can be made as a result of the situation, you can prevent it from happening again in the future.
4 – Sometimes Things Need to Fail
This is tough, but true. Sometimes things need to fail. And people do too.
Many companies are guilty of constantly covering up their problems. Their reactions cover up the failures in either process or people that are causing the problems.
If things do not fail, they do not get addressed. If a broken process is constantly worked around, it never gets fixed. If team members are constantly doing the work for a failing co-worker, then that person’s performance is never improved or addressed.
Problems that are hidden, or worse ignored, can ultimately lead to even bigger disasters in the future.
5 – Prevents Accountability
During the confusion of many fire drills, all accountability goes out the window. The team is so consumed with situation, that “how we got here in the first place” is lost.
Even more interesting is that you will often see people taking credit for addressing fire drills that they were directly responsible for causing in the first place!
Consider Before Acting
So when the next fire drill comes up, take a few moments to consider your actions before immediately dropping everything. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to immediately jump on the latest fire drill. However, here are some things to consider:
- Is it truly urgent?
- What impact will the fire drill have upon other work?
- What lesson is to be learned from the situation?
- Is there an underlying issue that is causing the situation?
- Does anyone need to be held accountable?
How do you deal with fire drills in your workplace? Does your team sometimes react to things that are not truly urgent?