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A simple equation that has great value is Performance = (Knowledge + Desire + Experience). In a previous post, I mentioned this formula briefly, as it applies to training. Today we want to examine our performance, when altered by outside factors or influence.

Performance on and off the fire ground is crucial. From the final test to receive certification to how we function on our next working fire, performance should improve anytime we increase a constant. Measurements of knowledge and experience can be made and most predictably, an increase will be seen. Personal desire to perform to high standards, beliefs or at maximum effort is much more difficult to account for.

Fire service members should always be seeking to increase their knowledge, skills and abilities to improve performance. Instructors and Trainers can ensure KSA through education, but desire must come from within the student. A side note, I prefer to use Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes, since attitude relates more closely to desire. This is also due to abilities being a sum of your knowledge and skill. Instructors can influence a student’s attitude with enthusiasm. At least that is the desired affect. When the KSA’s are met we then can apply performance indicators, (Knowledge + Desire + Expirience) to track how a student improves. Typically, new students have high desire to learn and perform well, while lacking the knowledge and experience. As students grow, either all three constants increase or a deficiency noted. Instructors should be aware of what is lacking and take correct measures promptly.

Outside influences can trigger a shortcoming during a task. Humans are free thinkers. An issue that may arise when we put our workers into a situation with theirs peers, is conformity. Have you ever seen a group make a poor decision even though the individual members knew what they were doing was either wrong or should have been different? Humans will conform to the norms, values, and expectations of their peers when they feel pressure. Another angle is our younger/newer members; they tend to emulate behaviors of people whom they admire. All of us have looked up to someone in our career and felt we needed to show them our worth. Finally, the most influential way humans will exhibit a behavior, a positive reward.

Human Performance then would look like this:


X = INFLUENCE of various types and degrees

Our actions will differ when in a group setting, under leadership of someone we look up to and when rewarded. We most desire admiration and respect. The question is, do we as Fire Service Leaders ensure we influence the performance of our people by leading with the right behaviors, keep our values even in when were in the crowd and reward good work with the proper reinforcement? Conversely, influence could be a positive force, where we want to shift it though is to increasing desire. Even with hours of deliberate practice, hours of application, desire and no external influence firefighters are human and we will make mistakes. These mistakes however, can be with little or no consequence if we put certain defenses into place. Defenses are either by human or physical means. For example, we can tell everyone on the fire ground to avoid the garage area to protect against evidence spoliation or we can put physical barriers in place to protect the area. We should be able to trust the on scene responders with this task however the consequences of someone failing to follow directives could be dyer. Other defenses are what we call human performance tools. These are actions like peer checks. A peer check is simply having another person who is knowledgeable in the subject or field double check your work. Another tool is Stop, Think, Act and Review or (STAR). How many errors could we prevent just by slowing down and thinking about what we are doing before acting? If humankind did this 10% of the time, we would be out of a job! Discuss using these tools during training evolutions to reinforce the behavior during the real time event.


The most significant tool we can adopt is Management Oversight. On the fire ground, maintain positive management of responders. In the firehouse, it is how we work as groups or take responsibly for our actions. This should sound very familiar right. Typically, this is the role of the Company Officer. Frontline oversight with knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, desire and most importantly experience. No other position can carry influence as those on scene then the Company Officer. Those in this position need to understand the importance of HUMAN PERFORMANCE. Desire and influence are factors that cannot be measured easily, yet the CO must be cognizant of how they affect the crew. Work with your crews to increase their overall performance while ensuring that the influence factor is minimized, or only positive.

Performance is an attribute to responders at all levels. In a profession where most workers choose to be a part, it would be difficult to say they do not have desire. What does have a negative affect, the influence of those with less then optimal desire to persuade those to come down to their level. Bottom line, do your best the first time and we all will perform great.

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