Firefighting . . .

“If I had an hour to save the world,  I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions”                -Albert Einstein

I was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Logging country, and at times, forest fire country.  Since both my parents worked as teachers during the day, from a very early age I stayed with my Nanny, or at least that’s what I called her. Her name was Althea Duncan and she was the matriarch of a logging family.  All the men in this large extended family worked in the timber industry, most as loggers, a few in the mills. I still remember the smell of pitch, dirt and pine needles on their clothes when they came home, popped the tops off long neck beer bottles and sat around talking about their day.

At certain times of the year the topic always turned to forest fires and in these small towns everyone knew of at least one logger lost to the rapid moving blazes.  Whatever the cause, lightning strikes or careless campers, the devastation was always massive and long-lasting.

I recall hearing a story about a logger who took his crew to help fight a fast-moving blaze. After he and his crew were dropped off near the fire line, instead of immediately breaking out their shovels and axes and getting to work, he told his crew to pull out their lunches and canteens, and sit down with him.  The crew was stunned but since their boss was a wise old veteran logger, they did as he requested. After finishing a sandwich and a long pull off the canteen, he said to his team.

“Fires are like people.  They need to be carefully studied in order to understand what they are all about and how to best deal with them.”  He then proceeded to get his crew to study the wind, its direction and intensity.  To study the terrain and the dryness of the timber.  After a few minutes they had assimilated all the information available, developed a plan, and only then did they attack the blaze.

I find corporations full of ineffective fire fighters, running around frantically using poor information or “tribal knowledge” to attack important problems, often without a plan, but with lots of effort.

The very worst fire plan is no plan.  The next worse is two plans.  ~Author Unknown

Let’s stop corporate fire fighting and install better planning discipline.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to Firefighting . . .

  1. John, had no idea you were born in Oregon. I was born in Cascade country in BC. Small world. Forest fires and fighting fires was part of our summers too…great post.


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