understand how to get things accomplished and where to turn
for direction and approval.
• Order: The workplace facilities must be clean and safe for
employees. Everything should have its place.
• Equity: Managers must be fair to staff at all times, both maintaining discipline as necessary and acting with kindness where
• Stability of tenure of personnel: Managers should strive to
minimize employee turnover. Personnel planning should be a
• Initiative: Employees should be given the necessary level of
freedom to create and carry out plans.
• Esprit de corps: Organizations should strive to promote team
spirit and unity.
Max Weber’s Theory
Max Weber is another theorist of the science of management. He
created what is referred to as “bureaucratic management theory.”
Weber theorized that businesses were being run like families and
criticized them for this reason. He further theorized that employees
were loyal to their managers but not to the organization itself.
Weber believed that management should be a “bureaucracy” that
follows a formal structure where rules, formal legitimate authority,
and competence are the characteristics of appropriate management
techniques. A “bureaucracy” is a well-defined level of hierarchy and
chain of command that distinguishes the level of authority within
the organization. Clearly, an emergency services organization is a
bureaucracy. Individuals who hold higher positions supervise those
Weber also believed that a supervisor’s power is based on an
individual’s position in an organization, his level of professional
competence, and the supervisor’s adherence to explicit rules and
regulations. In other words, a manager is revered because of his
position, abilities, and knowledge of the workings of the organization. As an example, the fire service often reveres those with a long
history in the organization.
Weber believed that a bureaucracy should have a clearly defined
management structure broken into a hierarchy where members
are governed by clearly defined and rational rules. An organizational hierarchy is the arrangement of the organization by levels of
authority in reference to the levels above and below it. As an easy
example, supervisors are in charge of others below them to make
sure that those persons meet the organizational goals. A common
example is the NIMS chart (see chart 1).
Examples of rational rules are plentiful in the EMS/fire community.
However, many organizations fail to implement rules and experience
“freelancing management” as a result. Subordinates do not know what
is expected of them in many instances. There are no policies to guide
them, such as human resource manuals, best practices, administrative
policies, procurement policies, and ethical policies.
Weber theorized that a well-managed organization requires both
a hierarchy and fair rules. Volunteer departments live and die by
their bylaws while career departments live by human resource
manuals and collective bargaining agreements. An organization
cannot succeed with a hierarchy but without rules. Managers must
respect those rules.
Contingency theory asserts that when managers plan, they must
take into account all aspects of the current situation and act on
those aspects that are key to the situation at hand. The theory
believes that there is no single management approach that fits all
situations or organizations. It varies by the situation. For example,
on the fire scene, autocratic/dictator-based management is best,
while in the firehouse, a more participative and facilitative leadership style may better serve the department.
This basic point of this theory is important to understand because
the fire/EMS service lives under two distinct environments: emergency scenes and the nonemergency organization. Two very different
management styles are required in each environment, but we should
never believe that one style fits both the operational and administrative organizations. Perhaps our administrative management styles are
failing in the fire service because we attempt to manage our department’s administrative affairs like an emergency scene.
Can we measure the success of fire service management? An organization can improve itself by evaluating and restructuring its management and by building foundations of good management practices.
However, how does one determine if improvements are required? Can
the quality of the management be measured and evaluated?
The success of a fire service organization’s management can be measured quantitatively (numerically) and qualitatively (based on quality
of outcomes). We can evaluate whether the management structure and
processes are effective by measuring the success of an organization in
meeting its goals, though we first must determine if there are any goals
and whether those goals are in fact reasonable and obtainable.
The answer to why a department is successful or not always can
be found by evaluating management and management processes.
So long as the entity has set goals, the progress toward those goals
always can be measured and the success or failure in making such
progress always can be evaluated.
COMMON MANAGEMENT STRUCTURES
IN TODAY’S FIRE SERVICE
Example of inefficiency #1: Many smaller emergency service
entities have very simple but inefficient management structures.
One common example can be found in volunteer fire departments
where each position holds a job function and the ability to perform
those administrative functions is almost irrelevant so long as the
individual is a competent operational officer. The lack of management skill unquestionably impedes the organization’s success.
Example of inefficiency #2: In some organizations, those with job
titles possess no decision-making roles. Instead, they must report
to the chief as the chief holds all the decision-making authority.
The fire service has placed such great importance on the role of the
chief that it refuses to provide any other person with final decision-making authority.
The chief cannot oversee everything, as the chief cannot always
be present or responsive. Moreover, the chief cannot possibly
manage everyone under him. Indeed, the “span of control” (Henry
Fayol) would be violated if the chief supervises more than three to
seven individuals. Emergency service entities must place trust in