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Date last updated: Saturday, December 30, 11:22 PST

Coping with Change: Who Moved My Cheese?

Volunteer Fire Departments are proud of our traditions, and we are reluctant to let them go. After all, if it has worked for the past 100 years, why won’t it work for the next 100?

Over the past 2 weeks we discussed fundraisers, and changing our ways of thinking. The hard part is, once we’ve chosen a ‘better’ fundraiser, how do we get our fellow members behind the idea and change their way of thinking?

Every department goes through change, and often has a ‘dinosaur vs robots’ battle. Dealing with change is a life long process, and when you have a bunch of firefighters with strong personalities, change can lead to arguments and can even tear departments apart.

While I was researching this article, I came across “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson, MD. Dr. Johnson’s book uses a parable about four characters in search of ‘cheese’. Cheese could be anything, and if you read this book, it is easy to replace cheese with more members, more funds, or whatever your challenge is. A few pearls of wisdom from this book can help every department;

One of Dr. Johnson’s first points looks at activity versus productivity. Too often we spend time at the department doing ‘busy work’ rather then what we really should be doing. There is always work to be done at the department, but we need to focus on doing what is best, rather than what we have always done. Time management is important. Take the time to look at what you are doing and see if it is productive or just being active.

I guess dinosaurs must be everywhere, because Dr. Johnson states that “If you do not change, you can become extinct.”. Too often this is the case in departments where the ‘dinosaurs’ rule and do not change with the times. We are now in the 21st century, it is time to look forward, and “smell the cheese often so that you know when it is getting old.”

Another great point is “Noticing small changes early help you to deal with the large changes to come.” When you see that your manpower is dwindling, it is time to do your recruitment before no one is there to answer the call. Anticipating change makes it much easier to deal with and plan for.

Throughout “Who Moved My Cheese” I found myself realizing that the book was written about the fire service. If there ever was a case of ‘Hem and Haw’, it would be at the firehouse. We love committees, and we love complaining. We love complaining more then actually fixing a problem because if we fixed it, we wouldn’t have anything to complain about.

As a group, firefighters are reactive people. We are used to reacting to fire alarms, and reacting to changing fire scenes. The hard thing is for us to be proactive rather then reactive. I think Dr. Johnson states it best:

Change Happens
Anticipate Change
Monitor Change
Adapt to Change Quickly

Those of you who have read this book understand that “movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.” Those of you who haven’t read this book should. I think it should be mandatory reading, especially when you are trying to get your department to move forward. You can buy the book from the Amazon link below, or at your local bookstore. Buying it through Amazon helps to support, but I believe in the book so much that I don’t care about the funds, as long as you get the book.

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