Light a Fire under Your Business: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: May 23rd, 2015 by bobmorris

Light a FireLight a Fire under Your Business: How to Build a Class 1 Corporate Culture through Inspirational Leadership
Tom Pandola and James W. Bird
Praeger™/An Imprint of ABC-CLO (2015)

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin

This is the first book I have read thus far that explains how to achieve strategic objectives using a business model based on the management of a fire department. As Tom Pandola and James Bird explain, “The stories in this book are actual experiences from our combined fire service careers of nearly 50 years, plus our combined business careers of nearly 30 years. They are presented to you, the reader, to demonstrate a particular point our principle…we refer to our past experiences because our fire service careers acted as a practical classroom in which we learned the principles that have served us well in firefighting, subsequently in business, and in life in general.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Pandola and Bird’s coverage:

o Comfort Zones — The Bigger the Better (Pages 5-6)
o Erasing Real and Understandable Fear (8-10)
o If They Can Do It, So Can I (12-13)
o Mission to Motivation (14-16)
o What You Do [and Don’t Do] Always Matters (17-18)
Comment: Michael Porter once observed, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
o To Be Successful at Anything, We Need Everything (20-24)
o Are You on Scene and in Command? (33-34)
o Five Critical Actions (34-38)
o SIZE-UP A Plan to Realize Your Vision (40-48)
o Five Critical Factors (49-53)
o How to Predict the Future You Want (59-60)
o Managing Risk While Discovering Your Best Practices, and, R2 = Exponential Improvement (67-68)
o The Review Process, and, Make Success a Way of Thinking — A Way if Life (69-71)
o Creating a High-Performance Team (78-80)
o Mission to Motivation (81-84)
o From Vision to Reality (84-85)
o Leading with Appreciation, Trust, and Respect (88-92)
o CPR + R2 = Successful Business Teams (95-97)
o Business Firefighting (101-102)
o The Business of Firefighting (102-104)

I commend Pandola and Bird on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include a Chapter Review of key points, “Revise: Call to Action” sections that focus on areas in which to improve, “Notes” at each chapter’s conclusion, and a series of “Hot Tips” on Pages 108-112, 113-116, 121-124 (two), 132-133, and 146-148. The design of the book, however, is much less friendly. The substance of the narrative could be — and should be — visually more accessible. The “flow” of the narrative itself also needs to be improved as does the inconsistent use of voice. I was sometimes distracted by shifts back and forth between first-person singular and first-person plural as on Page 27: “I had this sense of confidence…” and “Our mission as an organization….” One narrator, first-person singular or plural. Not both.

That said, there is much of substantial value in this book. With appropriate modification, much (if not most) of the practical, do-able counsel is relevant for almost any organization, whatever its size may be, when establishing or strengthening a culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. They also offer several useful insights with regard to personal initiative and accountability as well as to teamwork, especially when under duress.

Tom Pandola and James Bird explain include the Franklin quotation among more than a dozen inserted strategically throughout the book. Ancient wisdom suggests that you should dig a well before you are thirsty. Good advice. For CEOs as well as for firefighters, another is that it is far better to prevent a crisis (e.g. a fire) than to contend with one. Better yet, do everything to prevent one but be well-prepared when one occurs.

TAGs: Light a Fire under Your Business: How to Build a Class 1 Corporate Culture through Inspirational Leadership
Tom Pandola and James W. Bird
Praeger™/An Imprint of ABC-CLO (2015)

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin

This is the first book I have read thus far that explains how to achieve strategic objectives using a business model based on the management of a fire department. As Tom Pandola and James Bird explain, “The stories in this book are actual experiences from our combined fire service careers of nearly 50 years, plus our combined business careers of nearly 30 years. They are presented to you, the reader, to demonstrate a particular point our principle…we refer to our past experiences because our fire service careers acted as a practical classroom in which we learned the principles that have served us well in firefighting, subsequently in business, and in life in general.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Pandola and Bird’s coverage:

o Comfort Zones — The Bigger the Better (Pages 5-6)
o Erasing Real and Understandable Fear (8-10)
o If They Can Do It, So Can I (12-13)
o Mission to Motivation (14-16)
o What You Do [and Don’t Do] Always Matters (17-18)
Comment: Michael Porter once observed, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
o To Be Successful at Anything, We Need Everything (20-24)
o Are You on Scene and in Command? (33-34)
o Five Critical Actions (34-38)
o SIZE-UP A Plan to Realize Your Vision (40-48)
o Five Critical Factors (49-53)
o How to Predict the Future You Want (59-60)
o Managing Risk While Discovering Your Best Practices, and, R2 = Exponential Improvement (67-68)
o The Review Process, and, Make Success a Way of Thinking — A Way if Life (69-71)
o Creating a High-Performance Team (78-80)
o Mission to Motivation (81-84)
o From Vision to Reality (84-85)
o Leading with Appreciation, Trust, and Respect (88-92)
o CPR + R2 = Successful Business Teams (95-97)
o Business Firefighting (101-102)
o The Business of Firefighting (102-104)

I commend Pandola and Bird on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include a Chapter Review of key points, “Revise: Call to Action” sections that focus on areas in which to improve, “Notes” at each chapter’s conclusion, and a series of “Hot Tips” on Pages 108-112, 113-116, 121-124 (two), 132-133, and 146-148. The design of the book, however, is much less friendly. The substance of the narrative could be — and should be — visually more accessible. The “flow” of the narrative itself also needs to be improved as does the inconsistent use of voice. I was sometimes distracted by shifts back and forth between first-person singular and first-person plural as on Page 27: “I had this sense of confidence…” and “Our mission as an organization….” One narrator, first-person singular or plural. Not both.

That said, there is much of substantial value in this book. With appropriate modification, much (if not most) of the practical, do-able counsel is relevant for almost any organization, whatever its size may be, when establishing or strengthening a culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. They also offer several useful insights with regard to personal initiative and accountability as well as to teamwork, especially when under duress.

Tom Pandola and James Bird explain include the Franklin quotation among more than a dozen inserted strategically throughout the book. Ancient wisdom suggests that you should dig a well before you are thirsty. Good advice. For CEOs as well as for firefighters, another is that it is far better to prevent a crisis (e.g. a fire) than to contend with one. Better yet, do everything to prevent one but be well-prepared when one occurs.

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