Stop Having to Fight Fires

3 Steps You Can Take Right Now


Well done on taking the first steps to stop having to fight fires in your business. You’ll find out the real cause of the fires, and how to fix them once and for all.

Hi - I’m Kristina Coyne, Business Transformation Specialist.

Over the past decade, as I’ve helped a multitude of business owners and organisations increase their productivity, profitability and impact, I’ve noticed there were 3 main mistakes that people often made, that kept them stuck in fire-fighting mode... 

And that led me down the path of creating this report, so you can get instant clarity about how to fix the fires before they start. 

So let’s get into it! 

Kristina Coyne

Business Transformation Specialist

Kristina Coyne

Stop Having to Fight Fires

Imagine never again hearing your team say

  • "Please can you fix this?"
  • "I didn’t know I needed to do that"
  • "No one told me"
  • "Who is supposed to be doing this?"
  • "I was waiting on [x] before I could do it"
  • "I can’t do it because [person] has all the info and they’re not here"

Because that’s how most fire-fighting in businesses starts.

One of your team, or a client, or even a supplier, contacts you about something that has not been done.

And within seconds, your plan for the day flies out the window as you deal with this immediate issue.

Cause of Fires

Let’s get clear on the real cause of these fires. 

It’s not that your team don’t want to do the work (although it’s easy to interpret the cause as that). I can pretty much guarantee that your team want to go home at the end of every day feeling like they did a good job – there are very few people on earth who don’t want that.

It’s not that your clients want to make your life hard. They want the outcome that they’ve engaged you for. And they’re working to get that, even if it’s in ways that you’re not expecting.

The real cause of the fires is…

… lack of information.

Re-read all the excuses at the beginning. They are ALL about the person not having the information to do the thing. 

So if we solve the information problem, we solve the fire.

Simple, right?

However, solving the information problem is bigger than just putting out this particular fire. 

Absolutely you want to deal with the issue in front of you right now, and get it sorted.

Then, you want to look at how you can solve the information problem so that the issue doesn’t ever happen again. To make sure that your team, clients, even suppliers, have all the information they need, at the right time, to make sure this situation doesn’t re-occur.

Where do SOPs Come In?

SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, are information that your team use to do certain tasks. 

If you’ve got them, maybe they need updating.

If you don’t have them, maybe it would be worth creating them. (But wait until you’ve finished reading this report.)

The problem with SOPs, no matter how good your SOPs are, is that they generally don’t cover all the things I’m covering here. SOPs on their own do not stop fires breaking out.

You need to consider other things too.

And that’s what this report is all about.

3 Steps To Stop Fighting Fires Once And For All

Before we get into how to stop the fires happening, we need to set the context for the task that we’re looking at.

Draw a box on the page.

Write in it 

  1. the task – what it is that needs to be done
  2. the team member who is responsible for doing it.
A task box with text inside it saying "Task name" and "Person responsible"

This is often what people think of when they delegate a task to someone. There’s a job to be done, and they ask someone to do it. 

And often this is not enough to get the job done how you want it to.

Not because the team member is incompetent. And not because you’re bad at delegating.

Mostly because we look at the task as a complete thing, a single box…

… and we don’t consider everything around it.

To stop the fires happening around this task, we literally need to look outside the box.

1. Identify the Triggers

Triggers are the things that come before the task, that cause the need for the task to happen. They are the prompt that sets this task off.

Triggers can be 

  • time based or
  • event based.

Time-based triggers are things like every Wed afternoon, or the 2nd Mon of the quarter. They specify a time and frequency that something needs to happen. They can even be backwards triggers – something has to be done before a certain date. 

Event-based triggers are driven by something other than time. For example, when a customer order comes in, you need to do something. If an order doesn’t come in, you don’t have to do the thing. It's important for event-based triggers that you have a mechanism in place so that the person taking the next action is notified that there's a task for them to do. Again, they can also be backwards triggers – something has to be done before another task can be done.

Trigger events with arrows connecting to a task box

Triggers specify WHEN something needs to happen.

Often we don’t identify all the triggers for a task, which means the task doesn’t always get done each time it needs to. 

All sorts of fires result from not identifying all the triggers. The most common things you'll hear from your team in these situations are

  • "I didn’t know I needed to do that"
  • "No one told me"
  • "I did it (in this instance) and didn’t know I needed to do it (in that instance)"
  • "Who is supposed to be doing this?"

When you identify all the triggers, and make sure that the person doing the task knows they need to do it whenever those triggers occur, you cut out a heck of a lot of fire-fighting.

2. Identify the Inputs

So, we’ve got the triggers – we know when we’re supposed to do something. We know what the task is.

The inputs are everything that we need for us to do the task in this particular situation.

They cover

  • The skills needed to do it well (compare this with the skills of the team member actually doing the task)
  • The tools they need to use (either physical tools such as a back hoe or vacuum cleaner, or software tools such as a correspondence system)
  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for how to do it consistently, and how your business does it vs another business
  • Training
  • Any reviews for someone to provide guidance along the way, rather than at the end
  • Decision points that the team member can make vs those that need to be made by you or someone else
  • And most importantly, the information that the team member needs to use to complete the task. This information likely changes each time the task is done, although the rest stays the same. Reasons why this information changes is that you may do the same task for multiple clients. The client information changes each time.
Flow chart with triggers leading to a task box, identifying additional inputs to the task

Having all the inputs defined, and quickly and easily accessible by the team member doing the task, fixes the following issues.

1. Lack of needed information, which leads to things taking longer to complete because the person doing it

  • is waiting for supplies/information from someone else
  • doesn’t have access or can’t use the tools needed
  • doesn’t have the skills/experience/training/support needed to do it to the level expected

2. Lack of complete information, which leads to things not being done correctly, or consistently, because the person doing it

  • didn’t have the right information. They may be acting on out of date information, where all systems have not been updated
  • didn’t have enough information. Much of the time we keep a lot of information in our heads, without realising that others don’t know what we know.

When you get clear on the inputs, and have them readily available and up to date, it’s amazing how calmly the work flows.

3. Identify the Outputs and Outcomes


Often when we delegate a task, we’ll specify the output that we want. The thing that the team member will deliver.

Now, outputs are good and important and need to stay.

But they’re not the end of the task.

Outputs from one task are likely to need to go to someone else for them to do something with it. They are not an end in themselves. Outputs often become a trigger for someone else to do something.

So when we’re looking at a task, we not only need to think about what comes before it (triggers and inputs), we also need to think about what comes after it. Because the task that comes after it may need something that the current output doesn’t provide… 

If we update the output, we solve the next problem.


The second thing with outputs is often they’re not what we really want. They’re generally a means to an end. 

What we REALLY want is the outcome.

An outcome can be made up of a single or multiple outputs.

The outcome is the bigger WHY we are doing something. And as Simon Sinek says “start with why”. When people know the outcome they are contributing to, and how their work supports that, it goes a long way towards empowering them in the work they do.

Over To You...

With these 3 things – triggers, inputs and outputs/outcomes – you can go a long way towards stopping the causes of fires in your business. 

When you create the conditions for your team to thrive and do a great job, guess what?

They do!

That’s what happens when you build your business by design, not by default.

Next steps...

All of the triggers, inputs, tasks and outputs can be combined together to give you the FULL picture of how your business actually works. (Like an x-ray for your business.)

Most of the time businesses have an organisation chart, and that’s about it.

Org charts tell you who reports to whom.

They don’t tell you how the work actually happens.

This does.

Suddenly, you can see exactly what is going on in your business – who does what, when and how.

Example business flow showing tasks that different people are doing, connected by arrows

(This process map has been made generic, and taken up a couple of levels, so the business is not identifiable. It also only covers a very small step in his business. The real maps that I develop for my clients have significantly more detail.)

Importantly, you and your team can see the linkages between the tasks, going from person to person. These linkages are the triggers, inputs and outputs in action.

These linkages are the things that are the real causes of fires starting - the mechanisms for information getting from one person to another.

Much of the time, these linkages don’t exist, aren’t explicit, or require someone to consciously remember to notify the next person.

Can you see how having all these underlying structures completely visible and exposed allows you to address all the niggles and fires that take SO much time to resolve? 

Plus makes things easily consistent and effortlessly scalable?

In fact, the Leaders who I work with say things like

“You’ve completely transformed my business! Everything runs much more calmly. We’re no longer running around like chooks with their heads cut off. We’re no longer busy, busy, busy, always trying to bail water out of the boat. Now we fix the holes in the boat.”

“We've gone from trying to convince clients to use us, to them convincing me to do the job for them. We’ve been able to raise our prices, and still be booked out for the next 8 months. We're doing less, but our turnover’s higher, much higher. I don't mind doing a little less work and still getting paid more for it. It's definitely easier.”

See Examples in Action...

See an example of how to use these concepts. 

As Simon Sinek says, let's start with WHY. Which means looking at the triggers, outputs and outcomes first.