We do have a customer that whose job it is to put out fires, literally – a local fire department. However, we find that when we begin working with most of our customers they are also in firefighting mode. This is true if they are a healthcare facility, an information technology company, a human services organization, an insurance company, or a school district. Most of them consider this to be the “norm” for their industry.

How many times have you said or heard something like “that’s the way it is here in (insert industry), we are different than other industries. We cannot avoid these things, they are the unexpected that are thrown on us.” Yet as we continue our work, and each person looks at their days, we ultimately get unanimous agreement that somewhere between 35-60 percent of their time is “non-valued added” to their success or the success of the areas they manage.

Non- value added things might include rework of a failed project or proposal. Rework of that project or proposal because additional information was discovered that changed the scope. It might also include looking for people to get information from that you need for your work; when you expected to get the information some time last week.

Non-value added work is cleaning up an avoidable mess. Non- valued added work is duplicating work that others are also doing. Non-value added work is really anything that is not specifically aligned with the successful completion of the goals of the organization. How does this all relate to firefighting?

Begin with planning and prioritizing and this will give you a jumpstart at removing some small bits of that work. Once some of the non-valued added work is taken out, you begin to have more time to plan what you are doing on a daily basis. As you plan, you have the opportunity to discover the causes of some of the problems and put steps and processes in place to prevent them.

As you plan, you have the opportunity to be proactive and work on programs and processes before they become an “emergency” As you plan you become more focused and productive.