Fire Trucks & Collaboration

Fire truckEveryone in the Seven Cycles Collaborative has specific reasons for participating—some personal, some professional, and all of them worthwhile.  One of the reasons I’m participating in the Colab is to improve my teambuilding and collaborative work.  Hmmm, maybe it’s not so strange that the project is called the “Collaborative”—and not the “Steel-Lugged-Bike” project.

A Metaphorical Story

I’m not a story teller and I usually don’t like metaphors.  So, here’s a metaphorical story.  And it actually relates to the Collaborative.

A few days ago I watched a fire truck backing into a fire station.  The vehicle was as big a fire truck as I’ve seen; I believe it’s called a hook-and-ladder truck.  It’s about the length of an 18-wheeler truck—big enough that the truck had two steerers:  a driver in the front and a steering person for that back wheels, too.  I’ve seen this type of fire truck maneuver before and it’s interesting to watch a vehicle of that size move so effortlessly.

What was memorable about the recent parking instance was a juxtaposition.  On one hand, the driver was very confident and handled this oversized vehicle like he’d been driving school buses for many years; he moved the vehicle with certainty and no hesitation.  On the other hand, he didn’t seem to be working well with his steering partner at the back of the truck.  It took them a number of tries to get the rear end of the truck into the fire house.  It definitely appeared that the driver was not used to a rear wheel steering; it looked like he was trying to back up a school bus rather than a very agile dual steering vehicle; he kept steering away from the direction for which the rear steerer was trying to correct.  So, the dance was a series of overcorrections and apparent confusions about what the truck was doing and why.

It struck me that this scene was a perfect metaphor for how I sometimes see people work in new situations, or when they don’t work collaboratively very often.  In those types of situations a person might have a tendency to:

  • Treat a dual-steering fire truck like a school bus
  • Overcompensate, counteract, and essentially fight against what the seasoned steering partner is doing
  • Forget that being an expert bus driver does not a fire truck expert make
  • Be blind to knowing that skill without teamwork can be detrimental to getting into the firehouse
  • Work really hard, but not work together.  In fact, the harder the driving, the harder the counteraction—at that rate they’ll never get in the firehouse
  • Communicate through overreaction—over steering—rather than picking up the walkie-talkie and saying “WTF?”

At Seven I think sometimes I can be an adequate bus driver but not always good fire truck driver, or steerer—and this may hold true for some others at Seven sometimes.  It could be because we don’t have many fires to fight at Seven; right.

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