Creating an EMS Organization that Doesn’t Suck 

By Lisa Giruzzi

  • Does your organization energize you or bring you down?
  • Do you dread your board/staff/member meetings?
  • Does it seem easier to just do it all yourself rather than get people to step up?
  • Are you counting down the days until your term is up or until your next vacation?

If you answered yes to any of the above it is an indicator that your organization is designed to survive, i.e. energy-sucking rather than thrive, i.e. energy-giving. Don’t despair; it is not your fault.

The first step towards stopping your organization from sucking is to be willing to see the situation as a “design” problem versus a “personnel” or “personality” problem. Traditional thinking attributes organizational problems to the individual members of the organization. Although individuals can influence an organization they are rarely the source of the problems.

Farmer creates an environment quote ELA 800 x 800Consider this: “A farmer doesn’t grow crops. A farmer creates an environment where crops can grow.”

In other words, it’s the design of the environment or culture of the organization that leads to the results that are created. For example, if you have negative or difficult people, it’s the culture of your organization that is allowing them to exist.

Although your current organizational culture wasn’t likely consciously designed, it was designed nonetheless. Each time a problem was solved or a crisis was handled, new ways of operating were adopted and over time, this led to the current design.

The question is, what is your organization designed for? Everything that is designed is trying to fulfill on something; it’s designed for a reason. For example, an airplane is designed to fly; an automobile is designed for ground transportation, to get from point A to point B. What is the underlying reason or purpose for your organization to exist?

Originally, your organization was probably designed for a great purpose but as time went by it devolved into survival – to continue to exist. This doesn’t happen intentionally. It happens unconsciously. Decisions are made and actions are taken to deal with the immediate issue instead of fulfilling on the purpose of the organization. Eventually, the purpose becomes a distant memory.

Here is an example of how the purpose or vision of something influences the results:

The original purpose of an ambulance was to get the patient to the hospital as quickly as possible so the ambulances were designed for speed.

old ambulancetransparent-arrow-red






269196_201511043229420_7348533_nWilton EMS ambulance

Today, the purpose has changed to bringing the ER to the patient and look at the difference in ambulances today (photo courtesy of Wilton EMS, Saratoga Springs, NY).

The results you currently have in your organization are a function of its design.

Just like the exhaust from a car is the result of the current design of the engine, low morale, recruitment and retention difficulties, lack of engagement are all outcomes of the design of your organization. Once you acknowledge this as true, you can begin to redesign your organization for the results you want. Just like if you wanted to eliminate noxious exhaust from cars, you would redesign the engine.

Here are the steps to creating a thriving organization
(i.e. one that doesn’t suck!)

  1. First, objectively look at your organization and take the position that it is designed to survive, what can you see? What structures are in place to support survival instead of supporting your purpose? What ways of thinking do you have that coincide with the survival of the organization? How is your organization designed to produce your current results?
  1. Declare the purpose you are committed to fulfilling on. If anything were possible what would you create? What purpose would be worth your time and energy? Think BIG! Get other members of your organization involved in a conversation for what’s possible for your organization (not for fixing it).
  1. Imagine it from scratch, i.e. pretend you had a clean slate and could create your organization from the ground up, what structures would you invent? What actions would you take? What procedures would you implement that would lead to the purpose you are committed to (from #2 above)?
  1. Start somewhere. Pick an area to redesign, i.e. recruitment, retention, morale, etc. Don’t try to change the way it is, build something new – take a new action, institute a new procedure, create a new structure, experiment! Don’t waste time trying to fix the current results. That’s like trying to fix the exhaust from a car.

REMEMBER: The results you have now are from the current design of the organization (survival). If you want new results, you have to create a new design then take actions consistent with that.

Have questions? Call us. We are here to help.

downloadable pdfRead a case study on how an EMS organization used these steps to create sustainable positive change.

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Lisa Giruzzi

Lisa is a best-selling author, result-producing consultant and an award-winning trainer with more than twenty-five years’ experience helping individuals and organizations to be more successful and achieve their goals. She specializes in causing breakthrough results for her clients by giving them access to a whole new level of power and performance.

Lisa Giruzzi

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