Solve Fire Protection Problems Like a Management Consultant (Part 1)

One of my favorite shows is House of Lies.  Based on the book by the same title, this comedy series showcases the behind-the-scenes activities of management consulting. Intrigued by this “world” I spent the better part of a year studying the management consulting industry.

McKinsey & Company is the most widely regarded and renowned management consulting firms.  Their methods of analyzing problems, creating effective solutions, and managing the process is what distinguishes them as “the most influential private organization in America”. These methods are largely responsible for setting “the course of American capitalism”.  The systems and processes that McKinsey uses for problem solving in the manufacturing, energy, transportation, healthcare, communications, and pharmaceutical industries, can also be applied, with great effectiveness, to the fire protection industry.

Over the next few months I will be publishing a 6-part blog post series on how to practically implement and utilize McKinsey & Company systems and processes to solve fire protection problems. This series is collectively titled, McKinsey Method for Fire Protection Solutions. As you read keep in mind that these systems and processes can be applied to  fire protection organization and leadership, and to physical fire protection systems and components.

The benchmark McKinsey problem-solving process contains three components:

  1. Analyze the problem
  2. Present the solution
  3. Manage the process

Analyze the problem. To find a solution, the problem or need must first be identified. In organizations this problem may be related to competition, organizational structure, financial efficiency, or operations management.  In regard to fire protection, the problem could be related to code compliance, system selection and functionality, or performance-based design.  After the problem has been identified and clearly defined, a solution can be created. McKinsey utilizes a “fact-based, hypothesis-driven” 4-step process (to be discussed in a future post) to solve any problem: frame the problem, design the analysis, gather the data, interpret the results.

Present the solution. Even more challenging than creating a problem solutions, is communicating that solution and having it accepted for implementation.  Effectively presenting a solution is a two-pronged approach, structure and buy-in.  The solution presentation has to be structured in such a way that it can be communicated clearly and concisely.  The problem solution must be presented so that it is understood, and generates buy-in from necessary stakeholders and decision makers. Communication is key!

Manage the process.  Somebody has to do the actual work of implementing the solution. This is where the skills of project management, administration, and leadership come together. The individual, or team, responsible for solution implementation, must possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA's) to manage the project through to completion.  This individual must also be able to maintain the budgets, paperwork, and other documentation required for the successful administration of the project. The individual responsible for implementing the solution must be able to lead people.  This person will be responsible for leading the team that is working on this project, and for working with the client or stakeholders to see it to completion.

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