Stop Firefighting and Start Planning

Posted on by Kim Barnas


One of the first components needed in a management system is a way to look at your day. We call that our status sheet. It’s a daily check-in. It could be a huddle, it could be a conversation, whatever it is that you are doing, but it is at the front line and focused on identifying what is happening in the business today. How can you proactively think about your business in a way that solves problems before they occur? 

The status check-in is a way of doing three things:

  1. Reducing firefighting
  2. Seeing the critical thinking skills of staff and leaders (developing people)
  3. Identifying defects and trends in the unit that can be moved forward for problem-solving

Reduce Firefighting

First, you will be able to reduce firefighting when you have a plan to address possible defects and variation. For example, what will you do if five new patients walk through the door on the medical floor in the next two hours? We all know our staff will take really good care of them and our teams are used to performing the heroics necessary to put the patient first.  But what if we had a plan? Could we do a better job and not overburden them? Where do they go for help? And what is the trigger to ask for that help? How do we help our managers think in a different way?

Developing People

Secondly, when these status conversations occur we are able to see our front-line managers’ strengths and gaps in a new light. As we begin to see both our staff and leaders’ competencies, we will be better able to help them continuously develop. We can offer opportunities to stretch their thinking and encourage them to mature their skills. These are the future leaders of our organization so we want to invest our time in developing them.

Identifying Defects

Lastly, identifying defects and trends becomes easier through these daily conversations. This dialogue engages the front-line management and moves the problems forward to the problem-solving opportunity – perhaps a problem-solving huddle. Seeing the trends is the first step and something our managers now can get their hands around. Later as they move the discussion of these defects to the huddle we see people start to experience more work satisfaction. This is one seed for improving engagement of both front-line leaders and front-line staff.

People really appreciate the focused attention that the status sheet provides, so a lot of places have them.  But let me add one caution. Having a way to identify problems without a unified methodology to solve them creates frustration. If you are encouraging your front-line leaders to identify defects – you better have a way to solve them. Before you start status check-ins, be sure you have identified a visual problem-solving methodology!


Kim Barnas, CEO



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7 Responses to Stop Firefighting and Start Planning

Sharon Kipersztok says: 04/16/2019 at 10:41 am

Love this concept. And, I think A3 is a great Lean tool to move from firefighting mode to planful action.


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