When we were very young, in kindergarten we studied types of vehicles. You know like car, van, jeep, bus, ambulance and fire engine. That was the time we learn about fire fighters. I was quite terrified at the idea of facing a fire everyday of your life. Little did I know that in the professional world, fire fighting would be a daily affair. Firefighting is a common term used in corporate world to describe dealing with crises that occur frequently. For some, a delayed report may be a crisis and for others it may be the halt of a project.
Here is how I have learnt to firefight:
- Is it really a fire? Is the first question I ask. You all know the story of the boy who cried wolf. There are many who cry fire even if it is not so. Try and assess if this is really a crisis or something that can be deferred to later.
- A lot of times fire is creating by the higher ups wanting to keep a buffer. Imagine something needed by CXO level person. He may have given his team one week so that the completion date is say 20th of the month. When the VP, AVP, GM pass it on to the guy who would actually be doing the task, the deadline date would have moved to the 16th of the month! This does create a pressure because we now have only 3 days to actually do it. If things are heating up, some of the review buffer can be passed on to you.
- Very often, multiple things come up at the same time. Prioritise with your boss and set expectations with others accordingly. No one expects you to douse two fires at the same time. Your boss can help get more hands on the task or hold the heat off you so that you can concentrate on work. But you have to ask!
- What used to be a fire when you were a year old rookie seems business as usual when you are a ten year veteran 🙂 Basically, you get used to it 😉