Chief “Firefighting” Officer

Are you constantly putting out fires? Is your firm always in crisis mode? Is your job “reactive” instead of “proactive”? Well, don’t feel bad. Most CIOs operate in this mode. And depending on the industry you are in, there are times when you are always in crisis mode.

I came out of finance world where it seems there was a problem every minute. I became pretty good at putting out fires much to the delight of senior management. But I started to think, should the “fire” have started in the first place? The obvious answer is no. All that was needed was some initial thought about potential root causes and how to prevent them.

What steps should we take?

  • Try to be proactive and deal with problems before they become problems. Easier said then done, but it is important to try.
  • Recognize that you cannot anticipate everything and therefore you cannot prevent everything. Those of us who are experienced in DR/BCP planning know this axiom all too well. It is how you mitigate the problem.
  • Have a contingency plan to deal with problems you cannot prevent.

There will be times when some fires are unpreventable. How you prevent it from going from a flame to a forest fire is the true test of your abilities as a leader.


One thought on “Chief “Firefighting” Officer

  1. Arun,

    If a CIO is firefighting then he/she not being systematic about the causes of the fires. Following ITIL principles and focusing on root causes be they technical or procedural or governance related and addressing these is necessary to get out of the firefighting culture.

    I have seen organizations reward the firefighters as heroes which just goes and reinforces the wrong behaviors. Make it a KPI to minimize the incidents. Assign responsibility to someone. Let the CIO get involved in improving the systems.

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