Putting Out Fires

How often does your business day become completely derailed by some perceived crisis? If you are like most, this probably happens more often that you care to admit. We looked briefly at this in Is it Urgent? by considering how to determine if something was urgent or important. Now let’s take a second look from a different perspective in order to avoid the age-old time waster of putting out fires.

putting out fires

It Can’t Wait

Have you ever had a boss or fellow employee who acted in such a way that whatever was on their mind was the most important thing and you needed to drop everything to help? If so, look back at some of those times and consider whether their viewpoint was actually correct, or did it turn out that the crisis of the moment really wasn’t all that urgent or even that important? Now consider whether you have done the same thing. I imagine most of us, if not all, have at some point been guilty of wasting a lot of our and others’ time in what really amounted to no more than putting out fires. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we often cannot seem to resist this tendency. If your house or business was literally on fire, then of course the immediate attention is warranted, and there are similar business issues. However, people have a tendency to make any issue into a fire that requires immediate and undivided attention.

A Suggestion

When something comes up at work that seems like it can’t wait, pause for a moment and ask these questions:

  1. Why is this so important?
  2. If it is not done now, what are the consequences?
  3. Is this blinding me to things that actually matter more?
  4. Is this important or urgent or both?

For number 4 I suggest you read Triage for Business Issues.

Although it may be difficult, these same questions can be utilized when someone else is in the mode of putting out fires. You may need to reword the questions a little to avoid making someone think you don’t care, but you may well be able to get them to rethink the urgency of an issue.

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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