3 Ways to Put out Your Fires

By Sunjay Armstead |
April 11, 2020
Forest demolished by a forest fire

You fight fires every day. A upset customer here, a miffed employee there, and the confusing content on your website—let’s just say that’s far off your radar. And oh dear, let’s not forget the pandemic we’re all in. As if the everyday fires were not enough! Will you ever get on top of all this chaos? You certainly can. Let’s look closer at your fires and make a game plan.

Your three fires

Business cultures are deeply complex, so I run the risk of simplifying things too much in the following analogy. But if you’ll grasp this analogy and learn what it means for your business, you’ll be better for it. Here are three major fires crackling in your organization right now.


Campfires are the everyday dilemmas your business faces. These fires are your immediate and urgent needs. You just ran out of staples, Ted is running late for his morning meeting, your reports are wet from afternoon sun showers—things like that.


Bonfires are dilemmas that draw more attention. Hopefully these fires aren’t happening every day in your company. A customer cusses you out on social media and tags their closest friends. You default on a substantial loan. Your delivery driver crashed into Mrs. Nancy’s porch. You get the picture.

Forest fire

A forest fire is the sum of all of your organizational fires. When you combine all the fires you face, your forest fire is your company’s overarching dilemma.

What’s the problem?

Some organizations focus on the wrong fires and fail to solve their overarching problem. I recently spoke with a communications director at a church about how the coronavirus crisis is making it hard for churches to be heard in all the noise. Some churches have a lot they want their people to know about (dates, events, doctrine, etc.), but it is challenging to get people engaged.

These churches have an overarching problem. Lasting organizational change starts with leaders. The leadership at these churches must decide what’s most important. It’s tempting to say everything is important. But if everything is important, nothing is! They need to make it easy for their people to digest their marketing communications.

Do you see what’s happening? These churches are focusing on immediate needs (their campfires), but are neglecting the overarching problem (the forest fire) that continues the cycle.

You are focusing on the wrong fire

Your company, like these churches, may be so engulfed in smaller fires that it is missing the monstrous flames licking up your effectiveness. Yes, you do have some campfires to put out today. But if you don’t start looking more broadly, I’m afraid you’ll let a more massive forest fire run your whole organization to the ground.

Thankfully, the current global health crisis is exposing the forest fire hurting your organization. You are finally seeing your company’s greatest weaknesses and even its greatest strengths.

Make your game plan

So, what can you do to start tackling your forest fire? Let’s make a game plan.

1. Champion unity among your leaders

If your leadership is divided, you can forget the perceived effectiveness of putting out campfires. Your new logo, new marketing campaign, or new business strategy is significantly depleted of its potential when you have a larger fire to keep at bay. Bottom line: unite your leaders or you will waste countless resources like time and money.

2. Demolish your silos

Your company will get more complex as it grows and ages. It’s natural! You’ll create new departments, write new manuals, and hire new employees. Sadly, though, you’ll likely form new silos in your organization over time as well. And silos can be dangerous. Eventually your departments will clash on everything and your effectiveness will grind to a halt. Demolish these silos by creating ways for your departments to work together. Now is a great time to innovate. Market supplies and demands are changing. Your customers are waiting for you to creatively meet them where there are. You can’t do that with a divided team.

3. Get outside help

Call in the cavalry to help you paint a more honest picture about your business’s health. You can mobilize the experts in your company to collect data, but make sure you enlist some outside voices to interpret that data. Call an executive you trust from a different company or hire a consultant. Either way, get honest about the scope of your forest fire so you can effectively prevent further damage.   

You’ll be tempted to get frazzled by all the little fires popping at your company in the current crisis. Don’t give in. Intentionally broaden your viewpoint and see the overarching problem that this pandemic is exposing in your company. Unite your leaders, integrate your teams, and ask others for help to prevent your forest fire from spreading.

If you want an outside voice, contact me today. I’ll be happy to extend a free 30 minute consultation through the end of May 2020. I care about your company’s health and want to see you thrive in this crisis. Let’s talk soon.