No more being a firefighter on the job: how to change direction and stop putting out fires all the time

I feel like burying my head in the sand

“I pass it to extinguish firesI leave one and step into another all the time. How many times have I heard this in my office! This is a subject that is generally overwhelm people in their work. And it might not be a problem if it was said by the firefighters who are dedicated to it. However, it is a problem when those who complain – complain, worry – are people who have other goals to fulfill in their work and who have goals to achieve which they do not achieve by staying . caught upheroically, in the line of sight.

When it is already a problem in itself, the solution is also an emergency. And it requires other treatment, like taking off the helmet and leaving the firefighter style to go to the systems thinking.

What does mean? That instead of running punctually to one focus and from there to another, and to another, it is useful take some distance and to look with hindsight to be able to distinguish other ways of extinguishing conflicts, alternatives to the impulse to run after the flames permanently.

In general, this move is not easy to do for three main reasons: 1) it is very rewarding to solve a problem, it gives a immediate gratification, it is a success and it is difficult to stop doing it, even if it costs other failures -now or later-; 2) surely this style which at the beginning perhaps emerged in reaction to conflicts, then settled as a usual way of working and ended up producing habituation, even if it is no longer necessary: ​​habits become comfortable and even more so if they cause short-term satisfaction; 3) the fire threatens and the consequences of not extinguishing it immediately frighten.

Also, to get out of the trap of this established mechanism, it is generally useful to change the approach: from enlarge of the conflict to be resolved Zoom out of the series of relationships and situations surrounding the manifestation of the problem.

Because more than once the origin of the discomfort is not located where the symptom is, nor is the remedy applied topically. Often, intervening by an alternative means or at another point in the network has a leverage effect.

Perception has enormous power, acts by itself and produces effects.

Observing in this or that way is an automatic act and is usually done with too much aim towards the target that attracts attention. Thus, everything else is rendered invisible, as if it does not exist -although it still affects-. Expanding the frame of the gaze not only incorporates elements and relationships that are part of the subject, but also changes the meaning of what is seen.

To perform this Zoom out within the framework itself and provoke it in others, it is necessary to act at different levels of the process: in time, in the system and in the context. An excellent tool in this sense, very available and accessible, are the questions.

1. Expand Time View. It is important to see beyond today and to be able to prevent possible “fires” by analyzing projects and decisions anticipating future impacts with questions such as: what consequences can this issue lead to in the medium and long term? What risks does it involve? What opportunities How to use them?

of them. Broaden the view of the system. You have to look beyond the core where the conflict manifests itself: identify the interrelated elements that make it possible and nourish it. If the problem is seen as an isolated event, instead of being linked to a network of relationships that can positively or negatively affect the results, it will hardly stop recurring. It is useful to ask: what other areas and people in the system does this problem have a direct or indirect impact on? How might it affect providers and clients, family, others? Who else could step in to resolve the conflict? Who can you team up with? Who knows the problem or can help you?

And then it is useful to revisit the same questions when designing a powerful solution, to think about what the consequence will be in different coordinates of the work map.

3. Develop a shared vision. It is essential to direct the point of view of others and, at the same time, to manage the communication with other people or areas involved in the generation or resolution of the conflict. Ask, for example, who needs to be aware of the problem and/or ways to solve it? How will this topic be communicated to empathize with the needs of others, gain their cooperation, and avoid resistance?

Training the ability to close the lens, to zoom in and zoom out in order to have a broad and dynamic vision of the system in which the conflicts are inserted, is the key to finding global solutions, capable of breaking the vicious circle of the specific problem. recurrent . Stop.

Systems thinking before “firefighter” makes the solution stop being the problem and solve, from now on.

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