Sitting on The Edge of Revolution

These are turbulent times. Politically, economically, socially.

A story on the web this morning reports that a fire department in rural Tennessee allowed a family’s house to burn to the ground because they hadn’t paid an annual $75 fee for fire department service. 

In addition to losing all of their possessions, the family’s cat and three dogs were killed. 

When the fire department arrived at the scene because the neighbor’s house was being threatened - they had paid the $75 fee - the fire chief ordered that water be sprayed only up to the property line between the two homes, despite the home owner offering to pay ‘anything’ to have his home saved.

I have a pragmatic view about building a business. You define a Purpose, hire people that you think can help you create that vision, invest in them until doing so becomes destructive to the organization or unhelpful to them, and then make a change. It’s called accountability. The mid point between ruthlessness and enablement.

Accountability must have flex in it. Circumstances and people are not fixed points of reference. And absolute rules create only dictatorships. 

I believe the most effective management structure is a benevolent hierachy. One that listens and then decides. A model that allows you to judge the quality of the thinking of the leadership of an organization, and its prospects for achieving its Purpose.

I have never thought about the Purpose of a fire department. ‘Protect lives and property,’ seems like a good place to start. Sending a large bill after you’ve provided that service would be an acceptable quid pro quo for even the most radical opponent of socialized government.

The news website on which I saw this story is running an online poll. 22% of the respondents believe that the fire chief was right to let the home burn.

Clearly they’re not animal lovers.

Revolutions are not known for promoting rational thought. 

Fear in buckets, yes. 

Which tends only to promote the circumstances that created the need for revolution to begin with.

Running any business during a revolution is hard. The screaming and yelling drowning out most of the ability to think clearly. 

But if you’re clear about why your business exists - clear to the point of being able to write it down in a single line without the use of the word ‘and’ - you’ll put out your customers’ fires with increasing ease.

And get paid handsomely for doing so.