Monday, May 21, 2012

Normalization of Deviance: Protecting Yourself From It (Part 2)

"Normalization of deviance is a long-term phenomenon in which individuals or teams repeatedly “get away” with a deviance from established standards until their thought process is dominated by this logic:  Repeated success in accepting deviance from established standards implies future success.  Over time, the individual/team fails to see their actions as deviant.  Normalization of deviance leads to 'predictable surprises' which are invariably disastrous to the team." (taken from

Teamwork Lessons from Mike Mullane
  • Recognize that you are vulnerable.
  • Plan the work and work the plan.
  • Consider your instincts and the people you lead.
  • Archive and review near-misses and disasters.
Excerpts from Leading in the Wildland Fire Service
Fire leaders build cohesive teams—not simply groups of individuals putting forth individual efforts—to accomplish missions in high-risk environments.

Cohesive teams are more creative and adaptable when dealing with complex situations. This enables them to detect and mitigate errors before irreparable damage occurs. Cohesion allows team members to anticipate the needs and actions of other team members. This increases efficiency and saves time.

Fire leaders set the stage by creating an environment in which cohesive teams thrive: establishing a foundation of trust, enabling healthy conflict, requiring commitment, setting an expectation of  accountability, and bringing focus to the team result.

Healthy Conflict (p. 53)
Leaders create teams that engage in healthy conflict: enabling a dynamic exchange of ideas, the voicing of diverse viewpoints, and, ultimately, innovative solutions.

Peer Accountability (p. 54)
Leaders create teams in which team members hold each other accountable. More than any system of reward and discipline, more than any policy, the fear of letting down respected teammates and peers represents the most effective means of accountability.

Peer accountability is an outgrowth of trust and commitment. We set the example by demonstrating that team members can hold us accountable, encouraging them to give us feedback on our own performance in meeting stated goals.

Resilience (p. 55)
The ultimate team result is resilience: teams that can bounce back when problems or errors threaten cohesion and synergy. Resilient teams practice behaviors that reinforce situation awareness, communication, and learning.

We create an atmosphere that fosters resilient teams:
  • Establishing an expectation that people at all levels communicate effectively by practicing the Five Communications Responsibilities.
  • Communicating clear leader’s intent, making sure all team members understand the end state and the objectives needed to reach the end state.
  • Defining roles and responsibilities so all team members have a clear picture of what they are supposed to do and how they fit into the bigger picture.
  • Tracking situation status so team members understand what progress has been made and can alert others when deviations occur.
  • Developing contingency plans to extend decisional space. Maintaining the advantage over the environment by planning for error or unexpected events and calculating responses in advance.

Other References
This is the second in a four-part series. We are operating and will continue to operate in sub-optimal environments. Fire leaders must take the time to instill this concept into their operational environments and as a part of the fireground culture.

Thanks to Brian Fennessy, Local/County/Rural Representative on the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, for referring this great video.


Tevez said...


I read this post two times.

I like it so much, please try to keep posting.

Let me introduce other material that may be good for our community.

Source: Firefigter interview questions

Best regards

Maeve said...

We use excerpts from the Mike Mullaine (sp?) video every year during our fire refresher and I also use it when I teach the S-336 Tactics and Decision Making class here on our forest. I love the video because it reminds me that all of us deviate from the norm and it is human nature but we need to train ourselves to correct this habit. I love the example of the seat belt. I do it all the time; I drive (literaly) around the block to the mini mart and think "oh it's just down the street, I don't need to wear it because NOTHINGS GOING TO HAPPEN" Then I make myself put it on and my husband always makes fun of me. I try to discipline myself in my "normal" life so that I will instinctualy do so in my "fire" life!