Are you the Firefighter type in project management?

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Are you the Firefighter type in project management?

Are you the firefighter in project & time management? Are you the type, who feels like it’s a good day when you’ve done a lot of things and made a lot of decisions quickly? Finally, things are moving forward!

Do you know that for some people, a good day is just the opposite? A good day is a day when they took the time to plan and organize everything well and followed their plan to the letter.

And yes, you don’t work like them! And yet their approach is, according to them, more effective. Who has the best method to organize time and projects?

Several years ago, Gantt charts were very popular. Today, the Agile method is being promoted. Yet each of these methods follows a particular temporal preference.

Breaking news! There is no one method that works all the time and for everyone. It all depends on your temporal preference. But what is a temporal preference? This article introduces the concept of personalities in project and time management. A first introduction to the subject.


Personalities, Project Management Perspective

There are several types of personalities or preference in project management. This seems obvious, and yet many of us forget it.

This article is the fourth of a series of 5. The objective is to describe the concepts that explain the polarities of the personalities and briefly describe the personalities. In this article, we will explain the type: Firefighter.

Before we begin, it is important to point out that there is an infinite range of viewpoints and variations. The important thing is to understand what creates the polarities, the fundamental axes of your type of management. Before you start reading this article, make sure you have read the introductory article on Project Management Perspectives.

And remember, you are potentially all these points of view depending on a specific situation. It is therefore important to understand the 4 to know how to navigate and adapt according to the situation.

project management profil




Are you sometimes or mainly of the type firefighter?

Our main characteristics as Firefighter


We are of those for whom the life flows. How to plan when we do not know how we shall feel tomorrow? There are so many things which can arrive and we do not know what we are going to discover along the way. We have an extreme capacity of adaptation. A capacity to react quickly, we often trust our instinct.

Speed of Action

Given that we have no plan, it is fast and simple for us to adapt and to do something else which seems much more urgent and important than the current task. We need thus less energy to change state (of tasks). Our life follows our needs of the moment.

Perception of Details

We perceive the small details, it is exactly for that reason that we act immediately. The technical details, the businesses, the financiers, and/or the emotional one, all according to our expertise and our spectre of preferences.

To plan becomes a strange exercise without real interest, we create it to please others, if it allows them to feel better. Sometimes, when we have to create a plan ourselves at the request of our boss, this task becomes almost impossible. There are too many details and too many things which can arrive. How is it possible to extract a plan from all? Over and above, why are we taking time planning? We are submerged of urgent matters now. Why waste time developing a plan which will change anyway. It is very difficult to identify sequences from our life, because we have the capacity to perceive an infinity of options and to adapt to them immediately.

It is exactly this capacity to see details combine with our capacity to follow our instinct that makes it is difficult, even impossible, to plan. We wonder how and why the other plan. Our life is filled with surprises, and we all know that the plan will not be followed anyway. In the end, we eventually dislike planning and sometimes even telling ourself that we are incapable to do it.

In an organized environment where it is valued to make things step by step, we will find it difficulty to adjust to this method of work. Unfortunately, it is possible to believe that we are incompetent from the point of view of the planning. Do not lose courage, there are more adapted methods.


Some advantages of being a Firefighter

Being a firefighter has many advantages:

  1. The advantage of being able to see details where others do not see and act quickly on them.
  2. Our sensitivity and adaptability are very useful when things are not going well. If we prioritize human relationships, we are the best to listen to or help others when things go wrong! Therefore, a planned task that is part of a long-term process can wait until the next day if a friend or colleague needs to be listened to. It becomes our priority to listen and help them. As a result, we become the perfect people to talk to when things go wrong. People know this about us, so we attract that kind of emergency on a regular basis. We like emergencies and our personality attracts them. It’s not a big deal, but be careful not to always put yourself second.
  3. Changing the type of task is not a problem for us. The details speak to us and it is easy to change the track quickly.
  4. Our typical profile is that of the researcher and artist. Not knowing the next step is not a problem. In fact, when others ask us for our long-term plan, we’re not sure what to tell them. However, we are confident that we will find the way along the way to achieve the result.
  5. We therefore have a great ability to live in the present moment and move quickly with new information.
  6. We get along very well with people of our type and we have these perfect moments when everything flows so well. Why not everyone is like us, it would be so much simpler!


The firefighter must be careful to:

We often feel that people don’t react quickly enough. Yet it is obvious, there is an urgent need to act now. Why are the others waiting to react? We tend to judge them negatively. They are sometimes lazy, lacking in leadership, initiatives… We can also tend to force others to do things they don’t want to do, because it doesn’t go fast enough, be careful!

Speed is key for synchronizing with others. In the long term, this approach can have very negative effects on our relationships. At first, it’s not a problem, but over time the people around you might perceive you as tyrants, or emergency generators, or people who are always running and poorly organized.

Ask yourself the question and if they were not acting your way for a reason? They may be analyzing the situation and the possible implications with the plan before making an action. It is also possible that they decided not to move, because, according to their analysis, change, or action is not necessary. Trust others! Ask questions to go further. For us it is frustrating, we like to move and be in action, but for them, a longer reflection is also an action.

We have to accept that everyone has a different relationship with respect to time.


Attention to self-criticism which limits us

Then, in a dominant organized culture where everybody plans for their future, some of us will tend to judge themselves negatively. Say to yourself that we are incapable to carry out objectives on the long-term for example as we believe we can’t plan. The best thing to do at the moment it is to stop thinking that we are incapable to achieve long-term goals. We are simply different in our way of organizing and of managing our time. Do you reminder? We have our own advantages.


First Advice for the Firefighter

Take 5 min to look at what you achieved in the last years. Create a list. There are certainly some elements which continued in the long term. For example, you developed new skills like painting, photography, you mastered a sport, a new language… You may have developed a great revolutionary method to analyze materials.

How did you get there? It did not arrive in a linear/sequential way or how everybody, does it. So what! You arrived and in the journey you may have discovered unexpected things. Become aware that you have your own means to move forward and to organize. It is not because you do not follow the methods taught in the books of management that you are incorrect. Follow me, and I’ll made sure to share tricks in management of time and project which will be more suited to you.


Invitation to Read More

I hope that this article pleased you. If yes, I invite you in:

  1. Reading the suite of the last personality in project management.
  2. Asking me my time distribution guidebook, see link below
  3. Following me to learn more tricks on how to be efficient as a firefighter.

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