The saying goes, “Firefighters hate two things: change and the way things are.” Knowing how true this is, the First Due team advises our fire departments to pay close attention to change management while implementing our solution.
There are many approaches to managing change, but one that we’ve found success with is the Knoster model, which argues that there are five aspects to successfully managing complex change. Without any one of these components, not only will the desired change fail, but you can predict exactly how it will fail.
As you plan for future changes in your organization, think about the five building blocks of the Knoster model: Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources, and Action Plan. In this first in a series of blogposts, we’ll cover the importance of a clear vision, a thorough skills-building program, and the role of incentives in avoiding resistance.
Vision vs. Confusion
Before you implement a change, you must have a clear and distinct vision for what the change will be. A lack of clarity and common understanding of a post-change vision will almost certainly result in confusion, causing frustration and a lack of support from your change agents.
To build your vision, make sure you paint a clear, easy-to-understand picture of what the solution will look like and why the change is being made. For example, you might have a series of disconnected, applications across RMS, Scheduling, Assets & Response and want to change to a consolidated software system; explain why an end-to-end solution results in easier and more efficient work. You might be faced with a sunsetting legacy platform; set the vision for a future-proofed system that will keep up with cutting-edge technology innovations.
Skills vs. Anxiety
A pillar of the fire service that separates it from other fields is the industry’s dedication to training. Every firefighter has had an instructor preach, “you can’t train enough for a job that can kill you,” or, “t-shirt or golf memorial?” Just as departments drill on stretching lines or victim removal, departments need to be properly trained on their new digital tool.
When skill development is missing, the Knoster model says anxiety will prevail, so it’s important to make sure all users are well trained as part of your change process – treating new software like a new piece of equipment. With a well-educated team, we can answer each other’s questions, we know where to look for help, and we’re learning together. Users aren’t afraid to ask for help and the team can support one another.
Incentives vs. Resistance
It’s an age-old question: “What’s in it for me?” Knoster suggests that clearly defined incentives are important to any change process. Change managers must paint a clear picture of what life will be like after the change is complete and why it will be better.
For example, your legacy software might be old, hard to manage, and inefficient – point out that your new software will save you time. Is your service using a solution that is being sunset? A future-proofed software package will actively grow with them. Are you constantly toggling between systems that aren’t mobile responsive? Can you not get the information you need at the time of response? Once your teams understand exactly what will change and how it will improve their work, you will likely see resistance fade and see change champions emerge.
Resources vs. Frustration
Every job requires resources – the tools, technology, skills, or time needed to do the job well. For firefighters, this includes not just engines or hoses, but technology, as well. Failing to have what you need, when you need it, configured in the way you need it, understandably leads to frustration, and ultimately, apathy. Users can quickly see that the new solution won’t work and won’t believe in its efficacy without proper resources in place.
When you introduce a change, make sure adequate resources are in place and ready to be used. This could include iPads for your rigs, a successful CAD and, and even tech support training. When introducing First Due, we’ve seen just how impactful easily available training materials and support resources are at preventing frustration.
Action Plan vs. False Starts
It’s almost time to implement – but is your action plan in place? This last column of the Knoster Model speaks to the creation of a concrete, reasonable, and manageable action plan based off the vision, training, incentives, and resources you’ve already put into place.
Without an action plan, false starts are bound to happen. Someone may decide to implement a plan, but they don’t have a complete strategy in place, or the action plan may be competing with other station activities and priorities. This results in a constant start-stop, losing time, buy-in, and resources.
The action plan must be clear, manageable, and have easily measurable success metrics. Ask yourself a few specific questions: What do you want to do? When do you want to do it? How do you want it to happen, and how will you know you were successful? If your plan can answer all of these questions, you’re more likely to succeed the first time.
What Comes Next: The Knoster Model in Practice
It’s never easy to make a change in the fire service, especially when you’re considering a new software solution. Carefully managing and communicating change however directly leads to a smoother, more efficient, and successful transition.