"There is a serious danger that fire policy will be developed on the basis of work carried out in the context of the market place rather than being underpinned by research which has been subjected to full process of academic rigour and peer review" Professor D Drysdale (European Vice-Chair, International Association of Fire Safety Sciences) and D T Davis (Chair of the Executive Committee, Institution of Fire Engineers). Fire Engineers Journal 61, 10, 6-7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Cox, I.  (2001) Role Call: A comparative study of the purpose and role of Station Commanders in England and in Denmark, dissertation for BCC: Moreton in Marsh: The Fire Service College, http://www.fitting-in.com/coxbcc.htm

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

This international study explores the role of the station commander.  Fifty-six commanders, from two countries, England and Denmark, were interviewed to ascertain what they believed to be the purpose of their job, the problems they faced and the extent and effectiveness of the support systems that were available to them.  The respondents were also asked to prioritise the different functions of their role, using the Station Command ‘Rolemap’ – produced by the Implementation Working Group - as a template.

 

In addition forty-two of the interviewees also kept a two week ‘activity diary’ which collected details of the way they used their time: the hours they worked, where they worked, the subjects they were working on and whether their activities were planned or unplanned.  The details from these diaries were correlated with the findings of the structured interviews to determine if there was a causal relationship between the priority afforded to a function and the time spent on it.

 

There were only three significant difference’s between the countries.  The Danish commanders had larger stations, with larger budgets and spent considerably more time on ‘planning future activities.  There were no significant differences between the English Brigades despite the range of size and type, from metropolitan to rural.

 

The commanders placed a greater priority on ‘people’ centred activities - personnel management, etc – than their organisations did.  Conversely the respondents felt that their Brigades placed a higher priority on technical issues – such as financial management – than they did.

One of the key findings was the lack of clarity in defining the purpose of the role of station commander.  The Brigades and the commanders had different views on the fundamental purpose of the role.  Coupled with this less than half of the commanders had been given their job description, and only just over half had received management training to prepare them for their role.

 

The information from the diaries indicated that the average commander works for nine and a half hours a day and nine and a half days per fortnight.  They spent 33% of their time working alone and nearly 25% of their time was spent in administrative activities.  Most of their tasks (86%) were planned or routine and 25% of their activities were interrupted.  These findings correlate well with earlier management time studies.  It was notable that commanders spent only 2% of their time working in their communities – indicating that commanders are not carrying the community fire safety message to their communities in person.

 

It was apparent that station commanders were basing their actions on those of their predecessors –thereby pursuing the aims of their forebears, not necessarily those of the organisation.  There was also considerable role confusion, the commanders receiving conflicting demands from different parts of their organisations.

 

Two recommendations are made.  Firstly that Brigades should ensure that there is a clarity of purpose, regarding the role of the Brigade, that will inform and inspire everyone in the organisation, particularly the line manager’s.  Secondly that Brigades should consider the adoption of some form of time measurement system for station commanders and other officers. This must be done with care to avoid adding to the bureaucracy facing the individual officer without benefiting the organisation.



 

 

 

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Acknowledgements:

This research would not have been possible without the assistance and support of many others.  I would like to express my gratitude to all who have helped me in it’s production:

 

To the Course Staff , especially Gibby Williams and Neville Walton for guidance and advice and Dr Terry Shevels for steering me through the intricacies of inferential statistics.

To my mentor Olaf Baars for his support

To the ‘test pilot’s who helped with the development of the research tools; Nigel Blake, Richard Williams and George Cross.

In Denmark to Nils Lauridsen of Copenhagen Fire Brigade and to Torben Andreasson of Odense Fire Brigade, for hosting me so well and for their patience with all my questions.

To Dave Armstrong, Fire Service College; John Salt, Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service; Victoria Cinirella, Home Office FEPD and Anton Bradburn, South Bank University for their advice and assistance.

To my wife Jane for putting up with ‘the stranger in the study’ for six months.

Finally but most importantly, to all the respondents in the Brigades who answered my questions and kept a diary for me – you remain anonymous but I thank you all.  Without you this would not have been possible.

 

 

Want help with your bibliography? Go to Research Advice

 

Chapter 1

1   INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Précis:      The research objectives and parameters of the study are outlined.  The social professional and legal pressures that are inducing change in the fire service are described.

 

1.1        Research Subject

The subject of this research project, as described earlier, was chosen following an initial proposed hypothesis: 

“That UK fire services line managers job descriptions do not equate with what they actually do.  In particular they spend a large amount of time dealing with HR issues, more so than is reflected in their job descriptions or in comparison with other European countries”. 

 

1.2 This hypothesis was based on concern expressed over the levels of stress related illness, disciplinary activities and complaints of harassment in the UK fire service.  The implication being that an increasing amount of managerial time and effort was having to be devoted to such issues. However early exploration of the nature and extent of these concerns showed that the impact of these factors appears to be minor, (see Appendix I). 

 

1.3 Early investigation of this hypothesis indicated that there was insufficient available evidence to prove the theory. Although job descriptions were obtainable, and the functions of managers have been described in a set of ‘rolemaps’– produced by the Implementation Working Group developing competency standards for the UK fire service (Standards Working Group, 1999).   There was no evidence of what managers actually did to compare with these factors,  nor was there any consistent definition of the purpose of the role.  Therefore the focus of the study was changed and a set of research objectives designed to establish what it is that fire service line managers actually do. 

 

1.4       The research objectives set were:

i        To test the perception of the purpose and functions of the role of Station Commander according to a) the organisations and b) the postholders.

 

ii       To quantify the key problems facing Station Commanders.

 

 

iii      To establish the nature and extent of managerial support available to Station Commanders.

 

iv    To identify how Station Commanders use their time at work.

     

The focus of this research was to establish what station commanders spend their time doing, and whether or not this correlated with the purpose of their role.

 

1.5 The project had to be bounded as it would not be feasible to study the activities of all fire service line managers.  The role of Station Commander was chosen for the investigation as it was reasonably homogenous throughout, not only the UK, but also other European fire services.  It also had other advantages; there is a published ‘rolemap’ detailing the nationally agreed elements of the job . Station commanders have a large impact on the fire service, they act as line managers for approximately 90% of wholetime uniformed personnel in most Brigades – figures derived from the Brigade Directory 2000,  (DMG, 2000).

 

1.6  To determine whether the factors affecting Station Commanders were unique to the UK a comparative study was undertaken in Denmark.  This country was chosen as the legal framework, being an EU member, was identical, and other factors were broadly similar – comparable culture, (Hofstede, 1980) with local authority fire services and a high proportion of English speakers.

 

1.7 The focus of the research was an examination of the purpose and role of station commanders, what they do, how they do it and, most importantly, to what end do they do it.

 

1.8 The research consisted of two main parts: a structured interview and a self –reporting diary. The job descriptions for the role were also examined.  The study was based on a literature review of the factors affecting the organisational theory and the time use patterns of those carrying out the role of station commander. 

 

1.9              The assumption was made that managers in the UK fire services have a more complex workplace to contend with than their predecessors.  The changes can be placed under three main headings: Social, Professional and Legal, although the categories overlap.

 

1.10     SOCIAL

1.10.1    As Stredwick & Ellis (1998, 279) point out: 

“Employees now have different expectations of work.  Overall, they are better educated and aware of their rights, possess higher skill levels and are more inspirational than the previous generation.”

With increasing recognition being given to peoples rights (see below under ‘Legal’) a workforce is more likely to challenge management actions, and to demand evidence for any changes that are made.

 

1.10.2  Changes include increasing levels of stress (both professional and domestic), the increasing exercise of individual’s rights and changing lifestyle and work habits; all of which are affected by social changes.

 

1.11          PROFESSIONAL

1.11.1  The professional demands made upon managers are increasing. There is an expectation that all managers will contribute toward the strategic aims of the organisation.  This was identified by Kanter (1991, 13 )         “Companies are asking …. staff and functional departments to play a more strategic role”.

Other changes include mentoring, competency assessments and appraisals (including 360o appraisal).  The trend towards devolving budgetary control also adds to their workload. They also need a higher degree of computer literacy and have to cope with the increase in availability and accessibility that e-mail and mobile telephones provide.

 

1.11.2  It is a time of change for the fire service, as it is for the public sector in general. All organisations have to change to meet the demands of a changing environment.  The public sector faces lower levels of competition than private sector, and many  as ‘bodies corporate’ cannot ‘die-off’ and be replaced, as happens in commercial competition.  The introduction of ‘Best Value’ (Home Office, 2000) as a legal duty on fire services is a mechanism that introduces an alternative to external competition to induce public sector organisations to adapt more rapidly.  Best Value requires public sector organisations to challenge all of their service provision to determine if it should be supplied and also to consult the public to ascertain what services they want.  In addition organisations must embrace competitive practices and compare their results with peer group to ‘prove’ Best Value.

 

1.11.3  The  implications of these changes permeate  every  aspect of the service.    Implicit in the concept of Best Value is the need for officers to challenge not only how a service is provided, but whether or not it should be supplied.  A consequence of this is an increasing requirement to document and evidence all decisions made, and the reasoning behind them.  The service is also becoming much more orientated to achieving results (outcomes) than to meeting standards.  These pressures are defining the new professional standards of the service.

 

1.12    LEGAL

1.12.1  Managerial action is exposed to legal review to an ever increasing extent.  Earnshaw  & Cooper (1996, 27)  remark that  “it is now accepted that the duty of care takes effect as an implied term in the contract of employment.”  Allied to this a legal precedent has been set (Thompson, et al .v. Smiths Shiprepairers, 1985), which states:

 “a breach of duty consists of not only failing to take precautions known to be available as a means of

combating a known danger but also of not taking the initiative in seeking out knowledge of facts which are not themselves obvious.”   (Author’s emphasis)

 

1.12.2 Ignorance is no excuse and managerial indolence no justification.  Problems over harassment and equal opportunities, working time regulations, the environment, health and safety requirements, etc, are all issues which managers must recognise and address. 

 

1.12.3 The recent Human Rights Act will strengthen the right of workers to seek redress for such issues.  Klug (2000) argues that the Human Rights Act marks:

“the transition from a legal culture obsessed with the meaning of words to one which seeks the purpose of human rights values.” 

In a similar vein Lord Bingham (2000, 7) notes that:

“the courts are required, so far as is possible to do so, to read and give effect to primary legislation and subordinate legislation in a way which is compatible with the Convention.” 

1.12.4  All areas of employment, and operation, will be covered by this ‘read across’ provision, which will often place the burden of proof on the manager.  It is therefore increasingly necessary for organisations, and the managers who run them, to have clear and consistent channels of command and communication so as to be able to demonstrate that whatever is done, is done properly and for a purpose.

Chapter 2

2   LITERATURE REVIEW

 

Précis:      The literature on organisational development and managerial time use is reviewed.  The key themes found are the ‘contingency’ of management activities, that makes management such a complex activity. Many variables affect managers but three key requirements stand out:

1.      the need for a sense of ‘purpose’ and ‘shared vision’ to inform managerial decisions; and

2.      the need for information on managers’ time use patterns, to optimise managers’ activities,

3.      the need to  protect individuals from overwork and to reduce the liability for the organisation.

 

2.1    Scope of The Literature Review

2.1.1  There are two main areas of research which are relevant to this  study:

i       The literature on organisational development. Specifically that which is concerned with what managers do; their role and their purpose in the organisation.

ii      The corpus of work regarding time management  and the use of managerial time.


 

2.1.2   The two are related, as managers’ effectiveness, how well they fulfil their purpose, depends upon the clarity with which their purpose is determined and their role is set  Mere time efficiency is ineffectual if the work being done is not clearly focused toward achieving an organisation’s aims.

 

2.2             ORGANISATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

2.2.1   Although there is a large body of work on organisational theory the five elements and fourteen general principles of management expounded as early as 1916 by Henri Fayol are regarded by Pugh & Hickson (1996, 100) as “fundamental tenets” of the management of organisations.    Fayol’s theory of the elements of management – that a manager must Plan, Organise, Co-ordinate, Command and Control, was one of the first theoretical analyses of managerial activity, and still underpins most current managerial practice. 

 

2.2.2   Of Fayol’s fourteen general principles three are of particular relevance to a study of fire service management:

§         Unity of Command: each worker should be responsible to one person.

 

§                     Unity of Direction: activities should be co-ordinated within an overall Plan

 

§         Scalar chain: a hierarchy is necessary for unity of Direction

 

The lack of one or more of these principles particularly affects the fire service because of its hierarchical tradition.

 

2.2.3   Schein (1980) describes an organisation as :

“the planned co-ordination of activities of a number of people for the achievement of some common explicit purpose or goal, … through a hierarchy of authority and responsibility.”   

It is within the context of such a hierarchy that the role and purpose of Station Command must be examined.

 

2.2.4   Drucker (1977, 72) notes that 

“management .. has three tasks to perform: to fulfil the specific purpose and mission of the organisation; to make work productive and the worker achieving; and to manage social impacts and responsibilities.” 

      Here again we see the term ‘purpose’.  Managers are there for a purpose.   However a manager “does many things that are not managing” (Drucker, 1954, 343).  Both the job itself and the organisation to which the post belongs are part of a complex construct.

 

2.2.5   To understand such complexity, it must be examined using several tools or models.  Any attempt to explain a management system using only one measure or model will be too simplistic.   In order to compare organisations models must be used, as it is impractical to contrast two complete systems.  But models in turn have their limitations – the use of several models – or methods of examination - will better approximate reality than the use of only one form of comparison.

 

2.2.6   First it should be established that such comparison is possible and meaningful.   Nealey & Fiedler (1968, 318) examined 32 empirical  studies of managerial work, they concluded that

“the literature on management attitudes and behaviour …leads to the overall impression that the similarities outweigh the differences.” 

However they add two caveats to this view, firstly that “information involving management behaviour is very scarce”, secondly that “the literature almost certainly contains data.. influenced by response bias and observer bias.”   This was found to be the case – there is limited information on management behaviour in the UK fire service and what can be found is largely subjective based on the respondents thoughts rather than empirical evidence (McCreesh, 1999). 

 

2.2.7  That comparison is possible and useful, however flawed or biased, is demonstrated by Peters & Waterman (1982).  They used the McKinsey ‘7S’ model to compare the performance of  forty-three companies.  In effect they were comparing the managerial performance of entire companies, and successful use of their findings by other organisations is further evidence that comparative analysis is meaningful.  Their identification of the importance of  ‘hands on value-driven management’ to the success of the companies they studied indicates the necessity of having a ‘purpose’ to inform management activity.  Similarly their concept of ‘tight-loose’ control relies on a shared common purpose informing decision makers, rather than having a bureaucratic  control system to impose centralised values

 

2.2.8   Morgan (1997) examines this complexity by the use of metaphor.  He views organisations as (inter alia) machines; organisms; brains; cultures; political systems and psychic prisons.  Whilst Morgan contends that all theory is metaphor he recognises (p5) that:

 “We have to accept that any theory or perspective that we bring to the study of organisation and management, while capable of creating valuable insights is also incomplete, biased and potentially misleading.”

 

2.2.9       Morgan also notes (p169) that “the nature of any given job often combines contradictory elements that create various kinds of role conflict.”  This role conflict is  allied to the ‘role theory’ expounded by Katz & Kahn (1966).  They define the role of a manager as the sum of the ‘role expectations’ that he or she is subject to.  When these expectations diverge role conflict ensues. 

 

2.2.10 As well as role conflict there is also ‘role ambiguity’, where individuals experience no internal conflict but where expectations differ between workers.  Maier, et al (1959) compared the definitions of roles according to the views of ‘pairs’ of superior and subordinate managers.  The agreement of their definitions was in the order of 35%.  Each, manager and managed,  had a clear concept of the role of the subordinate but in two thirds of the cases the mental concepts were different.

 

2.2.11 Similar to the idea of role theory is the ‘psychological contract’ of Schein (1985).  This predicates that the role expectations of a manager will be influenced by unrecorded, often unrecognised, differences of expectation between the organisation and the individual.  A manager has to deal with this on two levels: firstly regarding the psychological contract between themselves and the organisation, secondly as an agent of the organisation in fulfilling the psychological contracts of their staff.

 

2.2.12 Mintzberg, (1973, 102) referring to earlier work by Stewart (1967), Sayles (1964) and Campbell et al (1970), found that:         

“We cannot conclude that ‘managers’ jobs differ greatly from one to another.” 


 

2.2.13 Mintzberg (1973,101) formulated a ‘contingency theory’ of managerial work. 

Environmental Variables: characteristics of the industry and the organisation.

After Mintzberg

 (1973)

Job Variables: The level, extent and nature of the job, the degree of responsibility/autonomy, etc.

Person Variables: the personality, style and attributes of the incumbent of the job.

Situational Variables: the temporal features of an individual task.

 

Basic Managerial Role Requirements

 

Basic Characteristics of Managerial Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

ONE

MANAGER’S

WORK

 

 

 

 


This model sees management work being contingent on four ‘nested’ variables: the environment, the job, the person and the situation.  The actions of a manager at any given time is the result of the interaction of these four contingent variables. This theory is an attempt to model the complexities of managerial work in a way that is understandable but not overly simplistic.

 

2.2.14 Mintzberg breaks managerial activity down into ten roles, divided into three areas:

INTERPERSONAL ROLES

 

Figurehead

Leader

Liaison

DECISIONAL

ROLES

 

Entrepreneur

Disturbance Handler

Resource Allocator

Negotiator

INFORMATIONAL ROLES

 

Monitor

Disseminator

Spokesman

 

 

 

 


After Mintzberg  (1973)

 

2.2.15 In a later work (1990,170) Mintzberg reflected on this model and concluded that there are four fundamental misunderstandings regarding the role and purpose of a manager. 

i         That managers are reflective and systematic planners

ii        That managers have no regular duties to perform

iii       That senior managers work best with aggregated (depersonalised) information

iv      That management is a ‘scientific profession’ which has rules of operation

 

2.2.16  He challenges each of the misunderstandings as coming from a false belief that management is purely a ‘cerebral’ activity.  Although he does not dismiss the need for the cerebral part of management [which he links to Fayol’s system] he stresses the normally unrecognised ‘insightful’ element of management.  This has to do with integrity, vision, ethics and emotions, rather than numbers, charts and deadlines. Contact with people is necessary to maintain these two sides of management in harmony.

 

2.2.17 More recently this approach has been adopted by proponents of the concept of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EI), such as Goleman (1998) and Hendrie (1998).  Cooper  (1998, 48) provides this definition:

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, trust, creativity, connection and influence.”

 

2.2.18 Dulewicz (2000) sees strong links between E.I and transformational leadership, both require acknowledgement of more than just a mechanistic relationship between the individuals in an organisation.

 

2.2.19  Weightman (1999, 151) also differentiates between ‘transactional leaders’, who concentrate on  command & control and the ‘give and take’ of daily managerial activity and ‘transformational leaders’ who are visionary and redefine the workplace. 

She also (p.11) makes  a similar distinction between what she terms ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ management approaches:

·        managing activities                 }           Hard

·        managing resources               }           Approaches

 

·        managing peoples feelings   }           Soft

·        managing visions and values           }           Approaches

 

2.2.20 Hooper & Potter (1998) sum up the essence of transformational leadership:

 “What really matters is the ability of the leader to unlock the potential of their people. This so-called transformational leadership is a far cry from the traditional command-and-control approach still taken in many organisations, even by those who deny doing so.”

 

2.2.21  Moss Kanter (1989, 361 – 365) outlines seven key skills which she holds that mangers must possess to thrive in an increasingly competitive world.  [The comments indicate a subjective view of how well fire service managers conform to these skill sets.]                                              Table 1

 

Skill

Comment

1

Reliance on self not status in hierarchy

Fire service managers used to hierarchical structure

2

Co-operative competition

Shared aim of all Brigades’

3

Operate with high ethical standards

High standards set in public sector?

4

Develop humility in dealings

More used to telling than listening?

5

Develop a process focus

Poor at detail work, ‘tell not sell’, etc.

6

Multifaceted and cross-functional

Used to compartmentalisation

7

Reward results, not effort

Culture of fixed conditions of service

From Kanter RM (1989)    

Point seven is of particular interest as the job descriptions acquired during the study  are defined by task rather than by expectations of output or outcome.  Even the Station Commanders rolemap (Standards Working Group, 1999), which does indicate desirable outcomes, has no quantitative performance criteria – although there is a clear expectation that such criteria should be set at Brigade level.

 

2.2.22 Point two is also worthy of note as the public sector possesses an inherent advantage in this area.   Whereas a commercial organisation is often reluctant to share its technical and managerial discoveries; a public sector organisation can – indeed, ethically, it should.  As Pedler and Aspinwall (1996), p116, put it:       “..one of the higher goals of public service organisations is to contribute to public learning and knowledge.”

 

2.2.23 These key skills are far removed from the mechanistic approach taken by Taylor (1947) and subsequent writers of the ‘scientific’ school.   There are two main differences between the Tayloristic approach and the style proposed by Kanter and others.  Firstly, that the emotional, people centred aspects of management are critical to managerial success.  Secondly that the managerial job is always in a condition of "flux and transformation"  Morgan (1997, 251).  The conclusion is that managers must learn to cope with continual change rather than try to impose a false permanence on the organisation.

 

2.2.24 Peter Senge (1992) is one of the foremost disciples of the need for an organisation and hence, of course, the people within it to continually adapt and learn.   Senge’s ‘learning organisation’ is based on five key points:

 

Personal Mastery   Where each individual accepts the need to continually update and improve their ‘mastery’ of their craft.

 

Mental Models         Where restrictive mindsets, both group and individual are challenged and stretched.

 

Shared Visions       Where all those in the organisation share a common vision of the future.  This will lead to a ‘holographic’ organisation where each unit or person encapsulates the whole. This in turn leads to the ability to have a ‘tight-loose’ control system, where the individuals will act for the greater good with minimal supervision because they share a common purpose.

 

Team Learning        Where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.  Teams can usually accomplish more than individuals –providing they are working to a common aim.

 

Systems Thinking  Where the ‘big picture’ allows managers to steer a better course for the long term, avoiding the pitfalls of the ‘urgent’ to deal with the ‘important’.

 

 

2.2.25  However for an organisation to develop, not just survive, it is essential –according to Senge (Ibid) - that it possesses two attributes.

i      A sense of purpose, a calling or a vision, of something more than just continuing.

ii     Sufficient humility to realistically appraise its own faults and to learn from all other quarters.

 

2.2.26  It is important to recognise that when one speaks of an organisation needing to have “a sense of purpose” or “sufficient humility”, it is the people within an organisation, especially the managers that must possess and exhibit these traits.

2.2.27 Handy (1993, 143) echoes the concept that Senge defined as ‘holographic’.  In Handy’s view workers (including managers) respond to the influence of an organisation in one of three ways.  They may COMPLY with what the organisation requires because their contract and other ‘controls’ ensure that they obey ‘the rules’; using sanctions to enforce compliance where necessary.    If an individual IDENTIFIES with the proposed working practices and patterns there is little need for such enforcement.  Ultimately the individual may INTERNALISE the aims and ethos of the organisation.  At this time there is no need for any control measures, individuals will do what is best for the organisation, to the best of their abilities,  in any situation.  This is the equivalent of Senge’s ‘shared vision’ (which is also echoed in the McKinsey 7S model).  The values of the organisation are running through the ‘internalised’ worker like the letters in a stick of rock.

 

2.2.28 As Peter Nolan (1999, 28)  notes when discussing the concept of ‘ideal’ management systems 

“The argument that the history of work simply records a succession of increasingly efficient systems is - although compelling - ultimately unconvincing.” 

How then can the most appropriate answer be arrived at?  When deciding what management systems and structure to adopt it must be remembered that there is no one right answer, but some answers are more effective for the organisation.   

2.2.29 In commercial organisations the degree of success of a company is measured by its growth and profit margins.  The success factors for public sector organisations such as fire services have been less well defined, but the introduction of national and local performance measures under Best Value (Home Office,2000) is beginning to exert the same external pressures on the public sector as shareholder expectations place on private companies. 

 

2.2.30          This is leading to the development of performance measures for fire service managers: such as Cheshire Fire Service’s ‘Critical Success Factors’ (Salt, 2000), Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service’s ‘Station Commanders Action Plan’ (Bacon, 2000), West Midlands Fire Service’s ‘Organisational performance Methodology’ (Gardiner, 2000) and Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service’s ‘PB Views’ programme (Ball, 2000).  These, and other similar initiatives, are seeking to produce measures of success, so that good practice can be recognised, rewarded and replicated.

 

2.2.31          According to the contingency theory of organisations advanced by Lawrence and Lorsch (1967)

 “organisational variables are in a complex interrelationship with one  

     another and with conditions in the environment.” 

This model, as adapted by Miles and Snow (1978) and Burrell and Morgan (1979), cites five determining contingencies:

i        The nature of the environment: simple, complex, stable or turbulent?

ii     Strategic position: offensive or defensive?

iii    Technological status: rigid or flexible?

iv    Dominant culture: work ethos, core beliefs, etc.

v     Organisational structure: bureaucratic, ad-hocracy, matrix, etc.

 

2.2.32          That these criteria are in a constant state of flux is apparent in the changes that private and public sector organisations are making to their structures and systems. A CIPD report on organisational development (1999a) found that 94% of the 153 companies surveyed were responding to external pressures by ‘rebranding’ and increasing the central control of their service image.  Sixty-eight of the sample were public sector organisations, of these 60% are increasing central control over their business units.  The survey also  found that nearly all of the public sector companies in the survey were developing means of increasing accountability for performance down the organisation. Arkin (1999) notes, in relation to this CIPD report, that Andrew Kakabadse of the Cranfield School of Management explains this trend for recentralisation as part of a continual oscillation between central/local  control systems, as firms search for competitive advantage.

 

2.2.33          The five contingent variables cited above (2.2.31) are clearly changing all the time.  The purpose of management theory is to identify models that are sufficiently complex to recognise the multivariate nature of organisations; but sufficiently simple to be understood and implemented by managers.  Critical to any such model is the purpose of the role of each individual within the organisation.

 

2.2.34          In order to capture the reality of Station Command any study must include an analysis of the purpose that the commanders believe they are there to achieve.

 

2.3 TIME USE / TIME MANAGEMENT

2.3.1   Whilst there is a wealth of literature dealing with time management, there is much less work on the converse of time management, time use.   Sarah Cook (1999) has undertaken a meta-analysis of the inventories and self questionnaires used in the teaching of time management, she concludes that to be effective the practitioner must customise the time management principles, common to all of the packages (time/interruption logs, diary prioritisation, task batching, bring forward systems, etc.),  to allow for the idiosyncrasies of the individual and the demands of the particular role.  

 

2.3.2   This echoes the views of Potter (1994, 4) who argues that time management courses are effective in proportion to the recognition they give to the culture of the organisation and the individuals self-concept as a manager.  Potter contends that time management courses are ineffective because they fail: “to change the way people see themselves and the belief systems under which they operate.”  In particular he feels that this is because “We tend to copy the behaviours of those around us, particularly our bosses.”  It is difficult to train an individual in time management, it is better to train a team or group so their behaviours reinforce each other.

2.3.3   Various systems are available to assist with time management, from paper based ‘diary’ systems of a type that is typically used by solicitor’s and accountants to sophisticated integrated IT systems.  It appears to matter less which system is chosen than whether the system allows the organisation and its constituent individuals to operate in a manner they find acceptable. 

 

2.3.4   Cole (1995) has studied managers attitudes to using and managing time.  She found, in a survey of  1,259 managers, of these 95% of managers exceeded the average working week (40 hours per week).  With 20% working more than 55 hours per week.   The respondents felt that time pressures were increasing, but most held that they found prioritisation easy (91%) and they felt no pressing need for time management training (24% would like it, 44% see no need for it).  The managers did identify that they benefited most from assistance in filing and administration and in filtering telephone calls, see page 79. 

 

2.3.5   Garnett (1993) in a working time survey for the Industrial Society also looked at managers working time patterns.  He found that 78% of the survey worked more than 40 hours per week, with 38% exceeding 50 hours per week.  He notes a move toward shared secretarial support, 24% having their own secretarial support, 53% sharing such support and 21% having none.  The survey indicated that 20% of managers working week was ‘wasted’.  Telephone interruptions, people ‘dropping by’ and poor information exchange between departments were identified as the top three causes of wasted time.

 

2.3.6   Garnett’s survey also found that senior managers work an 11 hour day on average, the figure for middle managers being 9.25 hours per day.  The corresponding figures for ‘paperwork’ are 3 hours per day (27%) for senior managers and 3 hours 11 minutes per day (33%) for middle managers, see page 81.

 

2.3.7              Stewart (1988, 5) identifies two main measures of a managers activities, the amount of time spent on an activity and the frequency of the activity.  Her study of 160 line managers in 1967 identified some of their working patterns.   She found that on average they worked a 42 hour week and spent an average of 66% of this time in verbal contact with other people: ranging from  less than a third for ‘specialist’ mangers to 90% for some sales managers.   They spent 75% of their time in their own ‘establishment’, 6% of their time on the telephone and,  perhaps most importantly they averaged twelve ‘fleeting contacts’ (interruptions) per day and only two uninterrupted periods of half an hour or more per week.

 

2.3.8   Mintzberg (1973) referred to Stewart’s work, amongst others, when he examined the nature of managerial work and contended (p.10) that:        

“managers work at an unrelenting pace, that their activities are characterised by brevity, variety and discontinuity, and that they are strongly oriented to action and dislike reflective activities.” 

 

2.3.9   Mintzberg’s structured observation of chief executives found that they spent 59% of their time in scheduled meetings and a further 10% in unscheduled meetings; with desk work taking up 22% of their time and telephone calls accounting for another 6%.  As important as the amount of time spent on each activity was the brevity of managerial activities, telephone calls lasted six minutes and desk work fifteen minutes on average.  Half of the observed activities took less than nine minutes.  His group spent even more time in oral communication (78%) than the managers in Stewart’s study.

 

2.3.10 Sayles (1979,17) posits three reasons why managers interact so much:

i      Management is a contingency activity: managers act when routines break down.

 

ii     Human needs of staff and colleagues: people in organisations demand contact.

 

iii    Complexity: management issues are not reducible to equations.

 

      When measuring the time use of managers it is important to establish what they, and their organisation,  believe they should be doing with their time.

 

2.3.11 There is little published on the use of managerial time in the fire service.  Time data is normally only collected in regard to fire safety inspections and operational attendance, neither of which gives insight into the managerial use of time.  A study into flexible duty officer work trends (Tidbury, 2000) did indicate that Station Commanders call outs (when on-call but not at work) averaged 12 hours per month.  This equated to four hours per month on operational incidents, four hours per month on investigation and welfare matters and four hours per month for ‘urgent managerial issues’.

 

2.3.12 McCreesh (1999) used a questionnaire based on the Management Charter Initiative criteria to identify the perceived time allocation of Station Commanders in West Yorkshire Fire Service.  By self report these managers spent 46% of their time dealing with people, 11% dealing with Finance, 16% dealing with Operations and 27% with Information.   [The comparator organisation, Tesco plc gave returns of 43% on ‘People’, 15% on Finance, 24% on Operations and 18% on Information.]  There are no records of line managers actual working hours which, under the national scheme of conditions of service (1996 Section 2.5) applying to officers in the fire service, can vary from 42 to 48 hours per week with further periods ‘on-call’ for between 32 to 48 hours  per week;  the average ‘office hours’ for fire officers being 42 per week. 

 

2.4 Working Hours

2.4.1   This nominal average can be compared with the Office for National  Statistics (1999) findings that full time male employees averaged a 45.8 hour week in 1998.  The CIPD also produced a report on working hours (1999b).  They defined ‘long hours’ as exceeding the Working Time regulations limit of 48 hours per week.  Their study found that one in ten workers work long hours (>48p.w.) with one in twenty-five working more than 60 hours per week.  Notably only 1% of the survey, of over one thousand workers, cited “fear of the sack” as the main reason for working long hours, 41% of the sample work longer hours on a purely voluntary basis.   The average working hours of all workers in the CIPD survey were 38.9 hours per week.  The figure for male workers is 45.5 hours per week which correlates closely with the ONS survey findings.

 

2.4.2   It can be concluded that time management is a learned, mechanical skill but actual time use is an amalgam of the individual managers skills, the nature of the managerial role, the culture and values of the organisation and the particular  circumstances of the moment.  These findings reflect Mintzberg’s four contingent variables of managerial work; (Environment, Job, Person and Situation).

 

Chapter 3

3             METHODOLOGY

Précis:    The methodological approach adopted for the study is described.  The advantages of ‘triangulation’ - examining complex systems with a variety of models – are discussed.  The rationale is given for the choice of research methods (a question set delivered via a structured interview and a self reporting activity diary).  The findings of the pilot studies are outlined and the reasons why part of the study had to be abandoned are given.

 

3.1 The focus of this research was to establish what station commanders spend their time doing, and whether or not this correlated with the purpose of their role.   To achieve this it was necessary to get information on what the participants believed the purpose of their work to be, and of what they actually did with their time.  The methodology for this research had to achieve these aims within the given time and resource constraints

 

3.2 The research design chosen for this study was ‘phenomenological’ rather than ‘positivist’, that is it sought to discover “the reality behind the reality” (Remenyi et al, 1998, 35;Thornhill et al, 2000, 85).  Thus rather than seeking to establish by deduction if a hypothesis is true or not,  it utilises an inductive approach, where the facts ascertained during the study lead to the development of theory to explain the observations.  The study is both exploratory and explanatory (Thornhill, et al, 2000, 97).  The aim is to find out what it is that commanders are doing (exploratory) and to establish the reasons why they are doing it (explanatory).

 

3.3 Bryman (1995, 28) distinguishes between ‘research design’ and ‘research methods’, noting that the former is “the overall structure and orientation of the investigation”.  Once the research design had been determined the most appropriate research methods were identified.  Bryman adds that although some designs are frequently associated with certain methods, e.g. case study with qualitative methods, the link is not implicit and several methods can be used in one design.   Therefore although qualitative research is more usually seen as part of an inductive approach to investigation, (Thornhill, et al  2000, 91), it can be appropriate to use quantitative methods in an  inductive study.

 

3.4 Management being a ‘contingency activity’ (see 2.2.13) cannot be fully understood using one type of analysis.  Strati (2000, 160) explains this as ‘methodological triangulation’ where “the researcher does not rely on one single theory, one single method or on synchronic analysis alone, nor on one single set of data…in the course of empirical research.”  This is echoed by Morgan (1997, 348); “there can be no (single) correct theory for …… everything we do.”, and reinforced by Thornhill, et al (2000, 86) who note: “Not only are business situations complex, they are unique.  They are a function of a particular set of circumstances and individuals.”  They go on to contend that it is not always possible or desirable to reduce everything to a series of law-like generalisations.

3.5 Given such complexity and uncertainty the following points must be considered when undertaking an analysis of an organisation:

i           Can analysis of the findings be refined to produce generic models which   can be used to assess organisations?

 

ii          No one model is adequate to fully explain any organisation or system.

 

iii         The analyst must be aware of the limitations of each model and the      contradictions between models.

 

iv         The analyst must be aware of their own inherent bias and that the data       with which they are working will never be complete or exact.

 

 

3.6 The research method could not be based on a longitudinal study (Thornhill, et al, 2000, 96) as there was insufficient time available to collect both the initial and comparative data sets, and the existing secondary data was not sufficient to allow subsequent comparison to be made. 

 

3.7 Strati (2000), p137 noted that structured observation allows theory to be developed inductively citing Mintzberg (1973), where three sets of data were collected regarding managerial activity:

i           Data on the chronology of work activities

ii           Data on mail received and sent

iii         Data on relational activities (who was seen, where, for how long, etc.) from which Mintzberg inferred his contingency model of managerial activity.  However, structured observation was found to be too time consuming and provided information on too small a sample to be effective for the purposes of this study.

 

3.8       Mintzberg (1973, 221-229) critiques seven research methods used to study managerial work.                                      Table 2

Seven Methods of Managerial Study

1

Secondary Data

2

Interview and Questionnaire

3

Critical Incident and Sequence of Episodes

4

Diary

5

Activity Sampling

6

Unstructured Observation

7

Structured Observation

After Mintzberg (1973)

 

All have their advantages and disadvantages, but the questionnaire and interview was seen as the most appropriate method to study the managers’ perception of their jobs. The use of diaries was seen as the best way of studying the characteristics of a large sample of managerial jobs.  References were made to amount of information collected by large ‘diary’ studies, principally Carlson (1952) and Stewart (1967).

 

3.9 Bryman (1995, 227) notes “the ‘trade-off’ between the greater amount of information that can be supplied by observation studies and the larger number of individuals who can be accessed through the diary method”. These larger numbers allow a more reliable profile of station commanders’ activities to be constructed.  Therefore it was decided to employ a hybrid study methodology.  Using questionnaires  to determine commanders perceptions of their role and self reporting diaries to capture the actual time use of commanders.

 

3.10    The role of the Station Commander is set by the organisation, but that role is effected by the individuals within that organisation   Zey-Ferrel (1982,182) criticises the contingency approach of Mintzberg and others for ignoring this association.  Amongst other criticisms she notes that this approach “considers people to be devoid of free will” and that such models “ascribe motivations and goals to organisations which only people can possess” .  It is therefore from the individual’s interpretations of purpose and policy that we can interpret the working paradigms of an organisation.

 

3.11           To ensure such ‘individual’ interpretation of organisational intent was considered the study methodology included questions designed to capture how the commanders felt about what they were doing (beliefs and attitudes) as well as what they did (behaviour) and what skills and training they had (attributes).  This follows the model proposed by Dillman (1978).

Table 3

Attribute

‘Characteristics’ of a respondent such as age, gender, training, job, etc.

Belief

Whether respondent ‘believes’ information to be true or false, no value judgement made.

Attitude

How a respondent ‘feels’ about an issue, a value judgement is made.

Behaviour

What a respondent ‘does’ in fact, as opposed to what they say they do.

                                                                        (See Appendix II)

3.12   The research objectives required that four questions be answered:

i              What do station commanders believe to be their role and purpose?

ii             What do they feel to be the key problems associated with the role?

iii            What support do they receive as managers?

iv           How do station commanders use their time?

To answer these questions this research project adopted a questionnaire delivered in the form of a structured interview to gather the data for the first three questions, and  a self-reporting diary to gather the observational data required by the fourth question.

 

3.13    To quote Robson (1993, 301) “the first phase of any data gathering should, if at all possible,  be a pilot study.”  Accordingly three Station Commanders within the author’s own organisation were asked to ‘pilot’ both the diary  and the questionnaire. As a result of their observations, and further literature review, the diary was altered seven times and the questionnaire ten times before the final versions were produced .

 

3.14    The key findings from these trials were:

§         The respondents would be far more receptive to keeping a diary if face to face contact was made.  This personal contact was also found to be the preferred method as it was impractical to write a clear, concise, explanatory note for either the questionnaire or diary as they dealt with such complex issues.

§         The diary would not be effective if the attempt was made to capture information on  too many variables.  Similarly the diaries would not be workable unless they were simple to use.  Therefore the diaries were designed to operate on a ‘page a day’ principle, and the variables were reduced to thirty-one (from sixty four in the initial trials).

 

§         The time periods for the diary could not be too fine.  Traditionally professional diary systems use six or ten minute ‘slots’.  The initial trials found this to be too intricate for the respondents.  Therefore half hour ‘slots’ were selected as the ‘finest’ feasible gradation.

§         The respondents had to be assured of complete confidentiality and anonymity to ensure they felt able to answer fully, honestly and completely.

 

3.15     The outcome was a thirty question form designed to be completed during a structured interview (Appendix III), and a two week activity diary (Appendix IV).   The form focused mainly on respondents attitude, attributes and beliefs, although some exploration of behaviour was included.  The diary was almost completely behavioural.

 

3.16    A smaller questionnaire was also devised to elicit the management perspective on the two key questions of the structured interviews.  [What is the purpose of Station Command and what priorities are placed on the functions of commanders.]  These were left with the host Brigade during the visits. 

 

3.17    This line of enquiry encountered two problems.  Firstly, it proved very difficult to determine which officer in the host Brigade was the appropriate person to fill out the questionnaire.  Clearly if it were given to the operations manager, for example, there would be a potential bias towards prioritising operational activities.  Secondly, even when the appropriate individual could be identified, there was evidence of some uncertainty over role priorities.  One form was returned with the remark that “ three senior officers have looked at this and cannot agree on the rankings.  Therefore an average of the three scores has been given”.  

 

3.18    Depending upon the organisational structure of the Brigade it might prove necessary to approach the Chief Fire Officer to get an unbiased view of a station commanders priorities.  It was decided to abandon this line of enquiry for the purposes of this study – critical though it is to an organisation’s effectiveness.  This is a worthwhile avenue of research that might be pursued at another time.

 

3.19    The credibility of any research relies on the reliability and validity of the data gathered and the rigour of the analysis.  Robson (1995) discriminates between external validity - can it be repeated by other researchers; and internal validity – is the relationship between variables causal or arbitrary?  To ensure external validity the diary was designed to have factors in common with other researchers work.  For example the method of recording travel time was based on Stewart’s (1967) research allowing the findings to be compared.  

 

3.20    Sample

      One of the critical factors affecting external validity is the sample selection and sample size. The population of Station Commanders in England is approximately 573 (DMG, 2000).  Thornhill, et al (2000, 156) indicate that for a population of this size a sample of 220 would be necessary for a 95% confidence level.  Given the financial and time constraints of the research project it would be infeasible to attempt such a large number of interviews other than through a postal survey.  Bryman (1995, 113) comments that:

                “there is a widespread recognition amongst organisational researchers that investigations using sample surveys are rarely based on probability samples.”  He notes that ‘convenience sampling’ is more usual as it is the sample that is actually available to the researchers.

 

3.21    The sample chosen was therefore purposive;  all the brigades approached were in England, and homogeneous; all the respondents were station commanders. The sample size was set at 60 UK and 3 Danish respondents.  This more than meets the ‘rule’ of  a minimum of thirty for statistical purposes (Thornhill, et al 2000, 155).  It also represents 10% of the population of English station commanders.  A variety of Brigades were approached by writing to a principal officer.  Arrangements were made with those that replied until sixty respondents had been identified.

 

3.22    Practitioner-Research

There are advantages and disadvantages attached to undertaking research as a ‘practitioner-researcher’  Although this principally applies to one’s own organisation, the fact that this research was carried out under the auspices of the Brigade Command Course raised similar issues in the other Brigades visited.  As Strati (2000, 142) notes practitioner-researchers have an advantage in that;

 

“There are activities which require specialist knowledge, the lack of which may render the analysis superficial; there are patterns of organisational life that are implicit; and there are organisational tasks which lie outside the range of permitted observation.” 

 

3.23    However this knowledge and understanding which assists practitioner-researchers in comprehending the organisation may also lead them to miss, or misread, issues because they are culturally pre-conditioned, (Thornhill, et al 2000, 224).  In other words aspects of the organisation which would be recognised by an ‘outsider’ as anomalous can be accepted by a practitioner-researcher who has been ‘habituated’ to the circumstances.  As well as being aware of these dangers, the research findings can be fed back to practitioner’s for ‘respondent validation’, (Bryman, 1995, 164).  Consequently the initial findings were relayed to two officers, one a principal officer the other a station commander, for validation.

 

3.24    The data (from the questionnaires and diaries were entered into spreadsheets.  They were then analysed using a variety of methods, qualitative answers were listed and studied using category systems for key words (Robson, 1995, 275).  Descriptive statistics were obtained using the Microsoft Excel statistical functions. 

3.25    Inferential statistics were obtained using the ‘Statistica’ software programme.  The t-test and the Wilcoxon Matched pairs test (Robson, 1995, 353-5) were used to analyse the difference between the priorities of the commanders and their Brigade’s priorities.  To determine whether there was a relationship between variables, the Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient (R) and Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r) were used (Robson, 1995, 338).

 

3.26    These correlations indicate whether or not one variable is related to another, in

terms of: 

Strength (R/r) , which can vary from –1 to 1 and thus be negative or positive.   This value is the square root of the probability, thus if there was a correlation of 0.57 then the independent variable explains 32% (0.572) of the change in the dependant variable. 

Significance (p),  (set as p < 0.05), which is a measure of how likely it is that the result is due to chance. For non-parametric, or nominal scale data,  Spearman’s R was used.  Most of the data sets fell into this category.  Where one set of data was parametric and on an interval or ratio scale, Pearson’s Coefficient was used to cross-check the Spearman test.

 

3.27    There were fifty-six respondents and one hundred and seventy variables, this provided 9,520 possible correlations.  This number is a maximum, as only forty-two respondents returned diaries, the diary data (which has 38 variables) will be missing fourteen sets of data reducing the potential correlations by 532.  Additionally, several of the questions have mutually exclusive answers, which means that some data sets cannot, by their nature, be complete.

 

3.28    Despite these reductions there were more available correlations than could reasonably be dealt with by a full, ordered review.  Therefore, the correlational data was examined in two ways:

 

3.29    Any significant correlations were examined to see if they were meaningful, the focus was primarily on correlations between data from the attributes and questions and the diary data.  This was  to determine whether there are connections between respondents’ attitudes, attributes and beliefs and their actual behaviour.

 

3.30    Certain potential correlations derived from the research focus, will be examined to see if there is any significance in the relationship, (e.g. does a concern expressed in Q.2 over welfare correlate with the time spent by the respondents on welfare?).  This second form of analysis is necessary because concentration on significant results only (whether positive or negative) would ignore the importance of there being no correlation where one might be expected

 

3.31     The analysed data were then critically evaluated and the findings are presented in chapter 5.

 

 

 

Chapter 4

4    INVESTIGATION

Précis:    The investigative process is outlined and the Brigades involved listed, the number of respondents to the questionnaire and the diary are given.

 

4.1 The interviews for this research project were carried out between November 9th and December 22nd 2000.  During this period arrangements were made to undertake structured interviews with 60 Station Commanders from sixteen English and two Danish brigades.                           Table 4

 

Participating Brigades

Intended

Sample size

No. of actual

Respondents

1

Avon

3

3

2

Bedfordshire & Luton*

3

0

3

Berkshire

4

4

4

Copenhagen (Dk)

2

1

5

Derbyshire

3

3

6

East Sussex

3

3

7

Essex

3

3

8

GMC

3

3

9

Hampshire

4

4

10

Hertfordshire

5

5

11

Kent

3

3

12

Leicestershire

4

4

13

Odense (Dk)

1

1

14

Oxfordshire

3

3

15

Surrey

4

4

16

West Midlands

3

3

17

West Sussex

4

4

18

West Yorkshire

5

5

 

* Only one respondent interviewed: therefore not used in analysis.

60

56

 

4.2 Of these Fifty-four were successfully completed, the remainder were either cancelled or had to be discounted as there were insufficient officer’s to maintain anonymity.  During this period arrangements were made to visit three Station Commanders in Denmark, two in Copenhagen and one in Odense.  Unfortunately circumstances required that one of the Copenhagen interviews had to be cancelled.   This meant that a total of fifty-six respondents were interviewed.

 

4.3 The interviews took place in either the Station Commanders office or some other venue arranged through the Brigades concerned, and took on average two hours per respondent, (including the diary briefing).  Care was taken to stress the confidentiality of the process and in dress, demeanour and attitude the interviewer took pains to be non-confrontational and to invite confidence.  (Thornhill et al, 2000, 253-8).  A tutor assigned to the researcher attended two of the interviews (with the respondents’ permission) and confirmed that the method adopted appeared to be effective.

 

4.4 Each respondent was given a copy of the questionnaire and ‘talked through’ each question. There was no set script, as this would have restricted ease of explanation, however as well as the questionnaire there was a set of  several key phrases, which were used in the explanation given to each respondent.  The answers were recorded on a copy of the questionnaire.   Where written answers were taken these were reflected back to the respondent to confirm understanding.

4.5 Once the set interview was over the respondents were encouraged to discuss further any issues which had been raised during the process (Question 29).  At this point any questions the respondents had posed, which could not be answered at the time of asking for fear of leading the respondent, were addressed.

 

4.6 The final question (30) was whether or not the respondent would keep a two week activity diary.  All of the respondents agreed to undertake to keep the diary   They were then briefed on how to complete the diary.  They were asked to keep the diary when convenient but to avoid periods of leave or extraordinary activity – such as attending a course at the Fire Service College.  The respondents were assured of full confidentiality and were shown the mechanisms by which anonymity could be secured.  [coding of all questionnaires and diaries, a minimum of three respondents per Brigade, no attribution of quotes, etc.].

 

4.7 A smaller questionnaire, devised to elicit the management perspective on the two key questions of the structured interviews were left with the host Brigade during the visits. These proved to be ineffective (see Methodology sections 3.17 & 3.18)

 

4.8 Depending upon the organisational structure of the Brigade it might prove necessary to approach the Chief Fire Officer to get an unbiased view of a Station Commanders priorities.  It was decided to abandon this line of enquiry for the purposes of this study.  This is a worthwhile avenue of research that might be pursued at another opportunity.

 

4.9 Returned diaries were received between December 11th  2000 and February 2nd 2001.  Forty-four diaries were returned, two of which were not fully completed.  This left forty-two valid diaries from fifty-six respondents – a 75% return rate.  Because of time constraints, and as there was sufficient diaries for the purpose of the study, no attempts were made to follow up on the non-returned diaries.

 

4.10    The quantitative data from the questionnaires and diaries was coded into spreadsheets, (Appendix V) from which descriptive and inferential statistics were derived.  The qualitative answers were analysed for key words and phrases, as described in the methodology. (Appendices: VI – ‘Comments from Respondents’, VII – ‘Fulfilling Things’ , VIII – ‘Dissatisfaction’,  IX – ‘Reasons for Staff Sickness’, X- Changes Requested and XI – ‘Ad Lib Comments’) Details of these answers are in section 5  ‘Findings’.

 

4.11    The preliminary findings were reflected back to two members of the service (see Methodology 3.23) who found nothing inconsistent with the results.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

5              Findings

Précis:    The findings are given in the order they were obtained.  Initially the job descriptions are examined, then the ‘attributes’ of the respondents and their Brigades, followed by the respondents’ beliefs and attitudes gathered from the question set.  The data from the self reported diaries is described, and compared with the results of previous studies.  Throughout this descriptive process the results of inferential analysis are given where appropriate.  The key points that arise are the difference of  priorities between commanders and their Brigades and the lack of correlation between purpose and activity. 

                [It is recognised that this is a very large section.  It was determined that explaining the questions in the Investigation section would result in repetition, therefore each result is given after a short explanation of the query that preceded it.]

 

5.1 The findings of the study are grouped into five sections:

i           The job descriptions (Section 5.3);

ii          The attributes of the respondents, their age, length of service, training history, etc (Section 5.4);

iii         The respondents views on their organisational purpose, (Section 5.5);

iv         The replies to the questions in the structured interview, both qualitative and quantitative, (Section 5.6);

v          The self-reported data from the respondents activity diaries, kept over 14 days.  This data relates to behaviour, (Section 5.7).

5.2       These sections have been analysed by qualitative and quantitative measures which fall into three types, descriptive statistics, qualitative interpretation and inferential statistics, which, in this study, are primarily correlational.

 

5.3      Job Descriptions:

5.3.1   These were obtained from all bar five of the English Brigades in the study. Five were out of date or being re-drafted; and so were excluded.  The remaining twelve varied in style and layout but could be separated into two types.  The first type adopted a generic approach, listing areas such as personnel, premises, operations, etc.  Each area had a description against it, such as ‘plan and conduct fire safety inspections in accordance with the divisional fire safety plan’.  The second type consisted of a list of responsibilities, e.g.

·            ‘manage fire safety inspections

·            manage 1(I)d inspections

·            manage hydrant inspections’

5.3.2   One of the ‘lists’ encompassed 96 responsibilities! There were few quantified targets, and these tended to be time based – ‘carry out quarterly health and safety inspection of Station premises’.  Even where outputs were given there was no mention of  desired outcomes.

 

5.4              Attributes

5.4..1   Sample:

Fifty six respondents, all Station Commanders, completed the questionnaire via a structured interview.  They came from seventeen brigades, fifteen from the UK and two from Denmark, (see Investigation 4.1).  With the exception of the two Danish respondents there were at least three respondents from each Brigade.

 

5.4.2  The Brigades were also classified in two ways, by the number of personnel employed (Brig. Nos) and by ‘Type’, which was obtained by a formula * to include the population served and the area of the Brigade as well as the numbers of staff.  There were no significant correlations between the size or type of Brigade and any time use patterns of their commanders.

[* formula = Staff Numbers + Half population + Half area; this was derived from the formula used to determine central government funding of local authority fire services]

 

5.4.3    Countries:

With just two respondents from Denmark the sample was insufficient to allow for proper statistical analysis of the differences between the countries. In three cases the returns from the Danish officers lay outside the range of the UK responses.  These were: the number of personnel, the size of budget and the amount of time devoted to ‘future planning’ (G6).  In these areas the Danish returns were equal to or greater than the highest UK figures.  This may be attributable to cultural or linguistic interpretations.  It would require a series of structured observations to establish if these findings are anomalous or typical.

 

5.4.4    Age:

The age of the respondents varied from 33 to 54 with a mean of 43 years.  Their service ranged from 12 to 32 years averaging 21.7 years. They had been Station Commanders  for a period ranging from 1 month to 11 years with a mean of 2.8 years.  There appeared to be a significant negative correlation between the age of the respondent and the rest breaks taken with others (R1), indicating that older station. commanders preferred to take their rest breaks alone.

Spearman R = -0.40           N = 42              p = 0.009

 

5.4.5   Duties:

Of the respondents fifty-four (96%) were on flexible duty (or the Danish equivalent), with only two (4%) being on a ‘normal’ working week.  Seven (12.5%) were temporarily in post, with the remaining forty-nine (87.5%) being substantive.

 

5.4.6    Sixteen respondents had no specialist functions, the remainder had between one and three, with the average being 0.9 per officer overall.  There was no significant correlation between the number of specialist duties an officer undertook and the total hours they recorded:

Spearman R = 0.15 N = 42            p = 0.35

      or the hours they spent as specialists at incidents (O3):

Spearman R = 0.18 N = 42              p = 0.43

      This is not proof, but an indication, that the officers functions are not necessarily congruent with the duties they actually carry out.

 

5.4.7    Training and Education:

The majority (88%) had completed both sections of the Junior Officers Advancement course (JOA) at the Fire Service College (or the Danish equivalent), four respondents (7%) had only completed the Watch Commanders Course (the course immediately preceding the JOA) and three (5%)  had completed the Divisional Command Course (which is the one that follows the JOA).  Nine (16%) of the group had taken Degree level studies in management, with one having a Master’s level qualification (MBA).

 

5.4.8   There were no significant correlations between the respondents’ training or education and any time use patterns:

            Training and Total hours:

Spearman R = 0.10 N = 42              p = 0.50

            Training and unplanned activities:

Spearman R = 0.27 N = 42              p = 0.86

            This is not proof, but an indication, that the officers functions are not necessarily congruent with the training they have received.

 

 

 

5.4.9   Sites:

The number of sites managed by the commanders varied from one to three.  Forty-seven (84%) having one site, five (9%) two sites and four (7%) having three.  Twenty (36%) of the commanders had link duties with Retained Stations.  There was a correlation between the time spent in giving instruction (I1) and whether the officer had Retained personnel under his command (N.B. not ‘link’ duties to retained Stations).

Spearman R = 0.43 N = 40              p = 0.04

 

5.4.10 Those Commanders with retained personnel averaged 5.2 hours on I1, the delivery of instruction or training, against 2.2 hours for those who did not have retained personnel.

 

5.4.11 There appeared to be no correlation between the number of sites an officer was responsible for and the time spent in travel:

            Spearman R = 0.09    N = 42         p = 0.57

 

5.4.12 Staff:

The personnel assigned to each Commander varied from twenty-four to one hundred and fifty-five.  The breakdowns for the Wholetime, Retained and Non-uniformed personnel are shown below:                        Table 6

Personnel

Smallest

Largest

Average Numbers

Wholetime

12

110

46

Retained

0

80

9

Non-Uniformed

0

4

1.5

Total

24

155

56

 

5.4.13 There were no correlations between the total number of staff a commander was responsible for and the total time (Time) they spent at work;

Spearman R = - 0.21          N = 42              p = 0.18

      Or the time they spent on welfare (G5)

Spearman R = 0.03 N = 42              p = 0.82

 

5.4.14 The findings for the correlations for wholetime staff numbers and time use were similar, apart from one strong, negative correlation between wholetime staff numbers and respondents total time at work.

Spearman R = - 0.34          N = 42              p = 0.02

      This indicates that wholetime staff exert a greater influence over the time commanders spend at work than do the other categories of staff, however it would appear that the more such staff they have the less time they spend at work.

 

5.4.15 Fifteen commanders (27%) had a temporary Watch Commander and a further five (9%) had two such temporary post’s.  Sixteen commanders (28%) had one watch commander with less than one year’s experience in post.  Two more (4%) had two such watch commanders and one (2%) had all four watch commanders with less than one year’s experience.

 

5.4.16 It did not seem to affect commanders time use if they had temporary watch commanders’, there was no correlation between this and the total time (Time) they spent at work;

Spearman R = - 0.26          N = 42              p = 0.86

 

      or the variance of tasks (V);

Spearman R = - 0.76          N = 42              p = 0.63

      or the time spent at desk (D);

Spearman R = 0.04 N = 42              p = 0.78

      or the number of interruptions they suffered (Fx1):

Spearman R = 0.01 N = 42              p = 0.91

5.4.17  Budget:

Thirty Commanders had a small budget for Station requisites, described as ‘Petty Cash’ (Coded P).  The remainder ranged from £1.1k to £210k, with an average of £19.5k.  These data are considerably skewed by the very high budgets for the Danish Commanders (£110k and £80k).  Excluding these gives a range of  £1.1k to £30k, with an average of £9.5k for the UK commanders.

 

5.4.18 There was a strong correlation between the amount of time a commander devoted to financial matters (G7) and the size of their Budget;

Spearman R = 0.55 N = 42              p = 0.000136

This was one of the few ‘expected’ correlations that was confirmed.  However the time spent was, on average, only 1.2 hours per week.

 

5.4.19 There was no correlation between the priority accorded to financial matters (Q1SG) and the time devoted to finance (G7);

Spearman R = 0.14 N = 40              p = 0.39

5.5    Purpose:

5.5.1    Before the questionnaire the respondents were asked to give a short definition of what they believed to be the purpose of Station Command.  The replies (see Appendix VI)  fell into four groups:

Group 1             Where the predominant role was seen as being a link between headquarters and the Station, quotes similar to “To be the direct link between the Fire Station and the Division/Brigade.” Similar views were recorded by sixteen respondents (29%).

 

Group 2         Where the predominant role was seen to be personnel related,  getting things done through one’s staff.  Quotes such as “To make sure my personnel are properly trained and equipped to carry out heir function”  were typical. Similar views were recorded by fifteen respondents (27%).

 

Group 3         Where the predominant role was seen as being a monitor of efficiency and effectiveness.  Quotes such as “The management and control of the resources allocated to the Station.” Are typical. Similar views were recorded by twenty-one respondents (37%).

 

Group 4         Where the predominant role was seen as being a facilitator of outcomes.  A typical quote would be, “To make (Station Name) a safer place”.  These views were shared by four respondents (7%).

 

5.5.2       It was notable that there were no significant correlations between the respondents’ view of their purpose and their self prioritisation of the constituent elements of their job (see Q1 in section II below).

                                                                                                Table 7

No.

Correlates

Spearman R

R

N

p

1.       

Purpose and Q1SA (fire safety)

0.12

54

0.40

2.       

Purpose and Q1SB (operational command)

0.14

54

0.29

3.       

Purpose and Q1SC (community fire safety)

-0.01

54

0.92

4.       

Purpose and Q1SD (administration)

0.16

54

0.22

5.       

Purpose and Q1SE (financial management)

-0.19

54

0.15

6.       

Purpose and Q1SF (individual & team development)

-0.21

54

0.11

7.       

Purpose and Q1SG (personnel management)

-0.14

54

0.31

8.       

Purpose and Q1SH (appraisal & selection)

-0.03

54

0.81

9.       

Purpose and Q1SI (organisational participation)

0.02

54

0.87

10.  

Purpose and Q1SJ (investigation & reports)

0.15

54

0.26

 

5.5.3   The inference is that the purpose and the role are not congruent issues for the commanders.  They do not necessarily perceive their role and function to be directly related their purpose.  It was, perhaps, significant that when asked to define the purpose of Station Command twenty-eight of the respondents made a remark to the effect that “I’ve not given much thought to it”.

 

5.5.4       One qualitative aspect appeared during the interviews’.  Some of the Brigades ensured their commanders spent time, alone, with a principal officer discussing the purpose of their role.  Their were insufficient numbers (6) to allow meaningful quantitative comparison but the researcher gained the impression that these individuals were far more confident in knowing what their Brigade wished them to do.  They had seemed to have achieved ‘identification’ with,  if not ‘internalisation’ of the Brigades objectives, (see Literature review 2.2.27).

 

5.6    Replies to Structured Interview Questions:

5.6.1   Q1. Priorities of Role

5.6.1.1 The first question dealt the respondents’ perceptions of the priorities of their role.  They were asked to rank the ten constituents of their job (derived from the Station Commanders rolemap) according to:

a)     their own priorities, and

b)     their perception of their Brigades’ priorities.

[N.B. the Danish respondents replies are not included in this result as the rolemap applies specifically to the UK.]                                           

 

Graph 1 shows the difference between the priority assigned by a commander to a function of the station commanders rolemap and their perception of their Brigades’ priority.   Above the zero line commanders perceive that their Brigade attach more importance to a function than they do.  Figures below the line indicate that the commanders believe the function to be more important than their Brigade.         

 

5.6.1.2                        As can be seen from Graph 1 the commanders felt that their Brigade attached a higher priority to Technical Fire Safety, Community Fire Safety, Financial & Resource Management  and Investigation and Reports than they themselves would have attached to those duties.  Conversely they felt that their Brigade attached less importance to Individual & Team Development, Personnel Management and Appraisal & Selection than they did.

Graph 1


                                                                                      

Table 8

ROLEMAP UNITS

A

TECHNICAL FIRE SAFETY

F

INDIVIDUAL & TEAM DEVELOPMENT

B

OPERATIONAL COMMAND

G

PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

C

COMMUNITY FIRE SAFETY

H

APPRAISAL & SELECTION

D

STATION ADMINISTRATION

I

ORGANISATIONAL PARTICIPATION

E

FINANCIAL & RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

J

INVESTIGATION & REPORTS

 

5.6.1.3   The scores were analysed using the t-test and the Wilcoxon Matched pairs test. Given the sample size, (54) the ‘t’ test, although more suited to quantifiable than categorical data, will still be meaningful (Thornhill, et al, 2000, 361).  To cross-check the results the Wilcoxon matched pair test was also used.  This is a non-parametric equivalent of the t’ test (Robson,1993, 355).  The results from both tests were unequivocal.

                                                                                    Table 9

Comparison of ‘Self’ and Brigade’ scores for question 1.

Self  v Brigade Score

Dependent samples T-test

Wilcoxon Matched pairs test

T score

p

Z  score

p

A ⇄ A

3.86

0.0003100

3.46

0.00054

B ⇄ B

-0.74

0.0462000

0.59

0.557

C ⇄ C

5.29

0.0000020

4.33

0.000015

D ⇄ D

-0.93

0.354800

0.90

0.367

E ⇄ E

5.63

0.000001

4.59

0.00004

F ⇄ F

-8.25

0.000000

5.4

0.000000

G ⇄ G

-5.9

0.000000

4.67

0.000003

H ⇄ H

-3.10

0.003059

2.82

0.00408

I ⇄ I

0.85

0.396

0.86

0.0391

J ⇄ J

2.79

0.0072

2.76

0.0057

[N=54]                          = non-significant

 

 

5.6.1.4   As can be seen from the table pairs B, D and I are not significantly different.  This indicates that, in the commanders’ perception, there is no difference in the priorities they assign to these activities and the priority they believe the Brigade attaches to them.

 

5.6.1.5   There are significant differences between the other categories,  The commanders felt that they attached more significance to ‘people based activities’ than did their Brigades.  Evidenced by the large negative scores for F, individual & team development, G, personnel management and H, appraisal and selection.

 

5.6.1.6   Conversely the commanders believed that their Brigades attached more importance to the more ‘technical’ activities of  A, fire safety, C, community fire safety, E, financial and resource management and I, investigation and reports, which all had significant positive scores.

 

5.6.1.7   The inference is that the Commanders place more importance on the people centred activities, whilst they feel their Brigades attach greater importance to the more technical activities of Fire Safety, Community and Technical and to Financial Monitoring & Resource Control.

 

5.6.1.8   An attempt to obtain a Brigade perception to correlate with the commanders had to be abandoned due to practical problems, see Methodology (sections 3.16 – 3.18).

 

5.6.1.9   The most significant correlation between the beliefs, exhibited in question 1, and behaviour, demonstrated by the diary data, was a negative correlation between the priority assigned by the commander to operations (Q1SB) and the time spent on community fire safety (G3).

Spearman R = -0.45           N = 40            p = 0.003

 

5.6.1.10 This indicates that the higher the priority assigned to ‘operations’ the less time officers spent on community fire safety.  This would be consistent with  an officer having a more traditional, operational, bias towards their role.

 

5.6.1.11There is a similar relationship, though weaker and less certain, between the priority assigned by commanders to community fire safety (Q1SC) and the hours they spent on community fire safety, (G3).

Spearman R = -0.33           N = 40            p = 0.036

 

5.6.1.12 The inference is that commanders  who place a high priority on operations do less hours on community fire safety (CFS).  However placing a high priority on CFS does not have a similar correlation with doing more CFS, in fact the reverse is the case.

 

5.6.1.13  The other correlations between self assigned priorities in Question 1 and the data from the diaries were not significant, see Table 10.

 

                                                                                                          Table 10

Q1SA (Self prioritisation of fire safety) & G2 (hours spent on fire safety)

Spearman R = -0.28

N = 40

p = 0.08

Q1SB (Self prioritisation of operations) & G4 (hours spent on operational preparation)

Spearman R = 0.27

N = 40

p = 0.09

Q1SD (Self prioritisation of administration) & G1 (hours spent in administration)

Spearman R = 0.12

N= 40

p = 0.46

Q1SE (Self prioritisation of finance) & G7 (hours spent on financial matters)

Spearman R = -0.10

N = 40

p = 0.52

Q1SG (Self prioritisation of personnel) & G5 (hours spent on welfare)

Spearman R = 0.05

N = 40

p = 0.77

Q1SI (self prioritisation of organisational participation) & M1 (hours spent in 1:1 meetings)

Spearman R = -0.23

N = 40

p = 0.15

Q1SI (self prioritisation of organisational participation) & M2 (hours spent in group meetings)

Spearman R = -0.20

N = 40

p = 0.19

 

5.6.1.14  There appears to be no definite correlations between the priority expressed by a respondent and the hours devoted to that subject; although as the scores for fire safety (G2) and operational planning (G4) are approaching significance, there may be an unproven correlation in these areas.  The scores for the correlations between time and priority for administration, (G1), finance, (G7) and personnel (G5) are strong enough to suggest that there is no connection between these factors.

 

5.6.2   Q2. Coping

5.6.2.1                        Respondents were asked to rank the three areas they found it most difficult to cope with.  Table (11) shows the number who ranked each category as ‘most difficult’ (first option) and the total scores for each area; that is first, second and third ranking’s added together.

 

                                                                                              Table 11

 

Factor

First

%ge

Total

%ge

A

Coping with Operational Incidents

0

0

0

0

B

Coping with Welfare Issues

2

3

8

5

C

Coping with demands from Management

15

27

42

25

D

Coping with Disciplinary matters

8

14

14

8

E

Coping with Deadlines

5

9

25

15

F

Coping with Cultural issues

3

5

7

4

G

Coping with Domestic requirements

4

7

11

7

H

Coping with Fragmented work patterns

7

13

24

14

I

Coping with Financial matters

0

0

2

1

J

Coping with Bureaucracy

12

22

35

21

 

5.6.2.2 As can be seen from Table 11 there was no concern expressed over coping with operational issues.  ‘Demands from management’ was top of both lists, with ‘Bureaucracy’ second. ‘Deadlines’, ‘Fragmented work patterns’ and ‘Disciplinary matters’ were next in the total order, although discipline was ranked third when scored as a first priority.  It is apparent that the main causes of concern are related to workload and work patterns.  Issues such as ‘Welfare’  and ‘Domestic requirements’ and ‘Cultural issues’ did not seem to concern the respondents.     Comparing these responses (attitudes) with the hours recorded by the respondents (behaviour) produced the following results:

 

5.6.2.3 Management Demands

      The correlation between Q2C, coping with demands from management, and the total working time (T) was not significant:                   

Spearman R = 0.33    N = 31         p = 0.07

The correlation between Q2C, coping with demands from management,  and time spent on planned activities (P) was significant:             

Spearman R = 0.38    N = 31         p = 0.03

 

5.6.2.4            Deadlines

The correlation between Q2E, coping with deadlines, and the total working time (T) was not significant:              

Spearman R =  -0.40             N = 18         p = 0.87

 

The correlation between Q2E, coping with deadlines,  and time spent on planned activities (P) was  not significant:               

Spearman R = 0.15    N = 18         p = 0.95

 

5.6.2.5            Fragmentation

The correlation between Q2H, coping with fragmented work patterns, and the total working time (T) was not significant:                   

Spearman R = -0.26              N = 17         p = 0.31

The correlation between Q2E, coping with deadlines, and time spent on planned activities (P) was  not significant:               

Spearman R = -0.40              N = 17         p = 0.11

 

5.6.2.6            Bureaucracy

The correlation between Q2J, coping with bureaucracy, and the total working time (T) was not significant:                   

Spearman R = -0.37              N = 26         p = 0.86

The correlation between Q2E, coping with deadlines,  and time spent on planned activities (P) was  not significant:               

Spearman R = -0.18              N = 26         p = 0.37

 

5.6.2.7                        This suggests that the main concerns of the respondents (coping with demands from management, deadlines, fragmented work patterns and bureaucracy), are not linked to any behavioural patterns on time use or time planning.   A full cross correlation between all the Question 2  responses and the diary  variables produced no other significant correlations.

 

5.6.3   Q3. Support from personnel function

5.6.3.1                        This identified the primary method by which the respondent gained information and assistance in dealing with personnel issues, via I.T. through the personnel department, from a dedicated officer or from specialist staff.


 

Table 12

Method of Personnel Support

No.

%ge

Full IT access

4

6

Partial IT access

8

13

Full Local records

3

5

Partial Local records

1

2

From personnel department

No.

%ge

Personnel Department. Immediately.

21

42

Personnel Department <7 days

17

29

Personnel Department. > 7 days

2

3

 

5.6.3.2        As can be seen from Table 12, 74% of respondents rely on their personnel department to provide information, with 19% able to access these records via Information Technology and only 7% having local records to which they can refer.  Extrapolated to the UK fire service this indicates that IT as a solution to the problems associated with the increasing burdens of personnel management is not yet the norm.  The large proportion (32%) who cannot get immediate support from their personnel department indicates that there are still problems with the traditional system.  As a supplementary question respondents were asked whether or not they received reminders from their personnel department, 37 (66%) did get such prompts.

 

5.6.4   Q4 & Q5. Satisfaction with personnel support  & Satisfaction with occupational health.

 

5.6.4.1    
Respondents were asked to express their satisfaction/dissatisfaction, on a Likert scale of 1 to 5, with their personnel departments (Q4) and their occupational  health departments (Q5).

Graph 2                                                        

Table 13

Satisfaction with Personnel and Occupational Health Support

Personnel

Occupational Health

 

No’s

%ge

%ge

No’s

%ge

%ge

Very Dissatisfied

5

9

29

4

7

21

Dissatisfied

11

20

8

14

Neutral

12

21

21

9

16

16

Satisfied

25

45

50

24

43

63

Very Satisfied

3

5

11

20

 

5.6.4.2                        It is a minority who are dissatisfied with either service, 29% for personnel support and 21% for occupational health.

 

5.6.5        Q6. Exceeding hours

5.6.5.1                        The replies indicated that respondents felt that they normally exceed their normal working hours.  The diary data indicates that twenty-nine respondents (69%) did exceed the ‘normal’ 42 hour week, in one case by 21.5 hours (respondent R2).  The remainder (31%) recorded less than forty-two hours, the lowest figure being 29 hours per week (respondent R39).  [Note that this individual was only at work for seven days during the diary period.  R39 still recorded an average of 8.9 hours per day at work.]

                                                                                              Table 14

Exceeding Hours

No’s

%ge

Never

0

0

Very seldom

0

0

Seldom

3

3

Sometimes

7

12

Often

18

33

Usually

15

28

Always

13

24

 

 

5.6.5.2                        Overall the average weekly hours were 45.3.  These averages provide useful managerial information, however an organisation owes a duty of care to an individual, not to a group.  Therefore it is important that individuals who are regularly exceeding their proper working hours can be identified.

 

5.6.6   Q7. Reasons for exceeding hours

5.6.6.1 Respondents were asked to rank the three main reasons why they exceeded their normal hours.  Table 15 shows the number who ranked each category ‘first’  and the total scores for each category; that is first, second and third ranking’s added together.    

                                    Table 15

Factor

First

%ge

Total

%ge

To gain undisturbed time

7

13

31

18

To cope with workload

21

37

45

27

To meet deadlines

4

7

32

19

To meet management expectations

0

0

14

8

To meet own expectations

24

43

40

24

To set an example to staff

0

0

7

4

To avoid going home

0

0

0

0

 

5.6.6.2                        Workloads and the managers own expectations were the top two reasons in

both tables, first ranked and total.  Gaining undisturbed time and meeting deadlines were third and fourth in both, albeit in reverse order.  The low scores for meeting staff and management expectations may be attributable to ‘social desirability’, (Thornhill, 2000, 281).

 

5.6.7       Q8. Fragmentation.

5.6.7.1Respondents were asked to estimate how many of their ‘activities’ (any

discrete managerial activity) were interrupted.  The options ranged from ‘none’ to ‘all’ activities interrupted.       

 

 

 

                                                                        Table 16

Estimate of

Interrupted Activities

No.

%ge

None

0

0

Few

1

2

Some

9

16

Most

39

70

All

7

12

 

5.6.7.2            Clearly the Commanders see their job as being very fragmented, 82% perceiving that most or all of their activities are interrupted.  There were no correlations between officers estimations of the fragmentation of their working day (Q8) and the recorded variations and interruptions:

  Variation (V):

Spearman R = 0.49 N = 42              p = 0.76

Interruptions (Fx1):

Spearman R =  - 0.06         N = 42              p = 0.72

Frequent Interruptions (Fx>1):

 Spearman R =  0.13           N = 42              p = 0.38

 

5.6.7.3    The evidence from the diaries indicate that 27% of the half hour segments were interrupted.   This consisted of 16% that were interrupted once and 11% that were interrupted more than once.  Given that the respondents averaged 5.8 activities per day the average time spent in any one activity was 1.6 hours,.  With 27% of the half hour segments in a nine and a half hour day being interrupted, it is probable that most of the respondents activities were interrupted.

 

 

5.6.8        Q.9 Complaints

5.6.8.1               This was designed to establish the level of complaints that were levied against Station Commanders.  Twenty respondents (36%) had been the subject of at least one complaint, with forty complaints recorded between them, ranging from one to twelve per officer.  The nature of the complaint varied, with most being over transfers from Watch to Watch.

Table 17

Nature of Complaint

Transfer

Appraisal

Leave

Harassment

Other

18

6

4

8

4

45%

15%

10%

20%

10%

                       


Graph 3

5.6.8.2            There was no correlation between the number of staff an officer was responsible for  and the number of complaints received by an officer:

Spearman R = - 0.11          N = 40              p = 0.41

This is a clearly complex area and would benefit from further research.

 

5.6.9   Q.10 Cases of discipline

5.6.9.1                        Twenty-four respondents (43%) recorded fifty-five discipline cases during their tenure, ranging from none to seven cases.  The average, per officer per year, was 0.8 cases. The diary data indicates that twenty one officers (50%) undertook disciplinary work (G8), totalling 61 hours, averaging two and half hours per fortnight for those officers involved.

 

5.6.10 Q.11 Time spent in travel

5.6.10.1 The respondents were asked to estimate the time they spent in travelling (Not including home to duty mileage) as a percentage of their working time. 

Table 18

Estimated Travel Time

No.

%ge

<5%

6

9%

5 - 10%

30

54%

11 - 15%

15

28%

16 - 20%

4

7%

>20%

1

2%

 

5.6.10.2 When compared with the actual travel time recorded in the diaries it can be seen that the majority of the respondents were fairly accurate in assessing their travel times.       

                                                                      Table 19

Actual Travel

Time

No.

%ge

<5%

15

36%

5 - 10%

22

53%

11 - 15%

5

12%

16 - 20%

1

2%

>20%

0

0%

                                                                                 


Graph 4

 


5.6.10.3                     Of the forty-two respondents who returned diaries twenty (47%) correctly estimated the ‘band’ of time which accounted for the actual percentage of their working time spent in travel.

Table 20

 

Underestimate

by two bands

Underestimate

by one band

Correct Estimate

Overestimate

by one band

Overestimate

 by two bands

Number

1

7

20

7

7

%ge

2

17

47

17

17

 

5.6.10.4                    This indicates that the respondents were fairly accurate in predicting time spent in a discrete activity, there was a tendency to overestimate rather than underestimate.  This may be due in part to the segmentation of the diary into half hour sections.  If travel time was less than sixteen minutes it would not make up the majority of a segment and would not be recorded; therefore short journeys would not be counted.

 

5.6.11 Q.12 Training and instruction received

5.6.11.1 This was designed to determine whether the respondent had received training in certain subjects and, if so, how recently such training was given.

     

5.6.11.2 Over half the respondents had not received training in stress management (for themselves of for their staff), the handling of grievances and disciplinary matters, or in general managerial procedures and time management.  Operational procedures (96%) and equal opportunities (94%) showed very high levels of training received, most (69% and 61% respectively) in the past year,  (see Table 21).

 

5.6.11.3                     The diary results indicate that twenty-four officers received training totalling sixty one hours during the two week period.  This represents an average of forty minutes per day for those officers.  It should be noted that this does not include any extensive training sessions as the respondents were asked not to keep the diary over a period which was scheduled to include extensive training sessions.

 

5.6.11.4                     The findings, shown in Table 21, represent a basic training needs analysis for station commanders in the English fire services.

                                                                                       Table 21

Training and Instruction Received

 

Training in past year

Training in past 2 years

Training > 2 years ago

No Training

Stress in

self

13%

17%

7%

63%

Stress in

others

17%

20%

9%

54%

Equal Opportunities

61%

17%

17%

6%

Handling Grievances’

19%

6%

6%

70%

Disciplinary

Matters

22%

6%

19%

54%

General

Management

31%

11%

7%

50%

Operational

Procedures

69%

17%

11%

4%

Racial

Discrimination

52%

20%

11%

17%

Sexual

Discrimination

54%

20%

13%

13%

Disability

Awareness

33%

11%

11%

44%

Time

Management

11%

4%

7%

78%

 


 

5.6.12    Q.13 Records of staff meetings

 

5.6.12.1 This was designed to capture the way in which managers recorded the results of any staff meeting regarding personal performance issues.  The options given ranged from recording nothing to recording all details of such meetings.  This proved to be the least successful question posed during the interview and often required detailed explanation.  Therefore, although presented, the results should not to be considered reliable.

 

5.6.12.2                     The majority (52%) kept records of significant meetings only, in full or in brief.  The 16% who said they made no records of meetings all stated that it was against their Brigade’s policy (or at least their understanding of such policy).                                                                     

Table 22

Method of Recording

No’s

%ge

Record all meetings in Full

3

5%

Record all meetings in Brief

9

16%

Record most meetings in Full

2

4%

Record most meetings in Brief

4

7%

Record significant meetings in Full

16

29%

Record significant meetings in Brief

13

23%

Record No Meetings

9

16%

 

5.6.13  Q.14 Staff stress levels

5.6.13.1  This was designed to ascertain the level of work that stress in the workforce presented to commanders.  Forty-five respondents (80%) had undertaken some form of intervention with their workforce in the past year.  This intervention was either with staff who were absent with stress problems or with staff who remained in the workplace.  The respondents were asked to give their opinion on whether the cause of the stress was work related or non-work related.     

 

5.6.13.2 The eighty per cent of  Officers who reported dealing with stress related problems, deal with about five cases per year, half of which are work related; and half of whom are absent from work.

                                    Table 23

Stress Absence & Counselling

Work Related

Non Work Related

Total

Absence

Counsel

Absence

Counsel

Absence

Counsel

Total

No. of cases

40

67

56

47

107

103

210

%ge

19

32

27

22

51

49

-

Average/Officer

0.8

1.5

1.2

1

2.3

2.3

4.6

 

5.6.13.3  The diary data indicates that every respondent undertook welfare work, (G5).  The total hours recorded ranged from 0.5 to 15, with the average being half an hour per day.  This activity absorbed 6% of the officer’s time.

5.6.13.4     There was no significant correlation between the priority given by the respondent to personnel issues (Q1SG) and time spent in welfare (G5).

            Spearman R = -0.10              N = 40         p = 0.52

 

5.6.14    Q.15 Assistance with stress

 

5.6.14.1  Question fifteen was designed to ascertain where officers would go if they required help in dealing with their own stress, and whether they had used such assistance.

Table 24

Rank

Peer Officer

Family Member

Counsellor

Dr/Nurse/

Occ. Health, etc.

Line Manager

Friend

Chaplain or equivalent

No-one

 

 

1

12

23

4

1

3

5

4

3

 

2

3

9

3

0

8

12

13

 

 

3

13

3

6

0

7

8

1

 

 

4

1

3

2

1

2

4

3

 

 

5

0

0

4

0

2

0

2

 

 

6

0

0

0

0

1

2

0

 

 

7

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

 

 

Total

29

38

19

3

23

31

23

3

 

%ge

17%

22%

11%

2%

14%

18%

14%

2%

 

5.6.14.2  The table shows how the officers ranked each option.  The officers were asked to rank only the facilities they had used, or would consider using.  The results indicate that most respondents (44%) would turn first to a family member.  In the overall rankings this accounts for only 22% of all the responses, but is till the most favoured resource.  

 

5.6.14.3 Thirty-two respondents (57%) stated that they had used at least one of the options to help with a stress related problem during their tenure.

 

5.6.15    Q.16 Counselling

5.6.15.1 This asked if commanders’ had been trained as counsellors or if they had access to counsellor’s.  No commander had received training to be a counsellor but 98% of respondents had access to professional counselling, for themselves or their staff, on request.  The one exception to this may be anomalous as two other officer’s from the same Brigade believed counselling services were available to them.

 

5.6.16    Q.17 Fulfilment

5.6.16.1  The respondents were asked to define the three most fulfilling things about their work.  The replies, (Appendix VII) were tabulated (Table 24) and analysed for keywords, which were then assigned to categories (Robson, 1997, 273-277).  The most common reply was the satisfaction of being involved in a ‘successful operational intervention’. 

 

5.6.16.2  The largest category of replies related to job related issues (45%), with individually fulfilling issues coming next (31%) and people related issues last (24%).  It should be noted that one respondent no longer found anything fulfilling in the role.

 

 

 

            Fulfilment                                                                    Table 25

Category

 

 

Number of Replies

%ge of Replies

Category

%ge

 

Individually

Related

 

Recognition and respect

16

10

31

Self achievement and pride in job

20

13

Responsibility and Authority

12

8

 

 

Job Related

 

Challenge of variety

8

5

45

Involvement in the community

4

2

Making a difference

13

8

Resolving issues

15

10

Successful operational intervention

31

20

People Related

Developing others

13

8

24

Maintaining a happy workforce

9

6

Working with people

16

10

 

5.6.17    Q.18 Dissatisfaction

5.6.17.1  This identified issues (see Appendix IX) that the respondents felt were the least satisfying aspects of their job.  Lack of support, which includes failure to resource and failure to encourage the commanders, was the largest single cause of dissatisfaction.  Issues which appeared less than three times were grouped together under ‘other’, these included poor training for role, low pay (for the area) and ineffective I.T. support.

 

Dissatisfaction                                              Table 26

Category

Cause of Dissatisfaction

Number of Replies

%ge of Replies

Category

%ge

System Related

 

Deadlines & Workloads

14

10

68

Bureaucracy

17

13

Time Pressures

10

8

Lack of Support

34

25

Poor Communications

6

4

Lack of Authority

11

8

People orientated

Changing Social Expectations

9

7

26

Perennial Personnel Problems

16

12

Politicking

9

7

Other

Other

8

6

6

 

5.6.17.2  Systemic irritations accounted for 68% of the replies, but only six respondents (4%) cited poor communications as a cause of dissatisfaction.

 

 

 

5.6.18    Q.19 Morale

5.6.18.1  Respondents were asked to give their view of the level of morale within their Brigades, on their Station, and amongst their fellow Station Commanders.  A Likert scale of 1 to 5 was used, 1 being very low morale, 5 representing high morale.

Table 27

Morale

Brigade

Station Commander

JO's

Ff's

Non Uniformed

Averages

2.9

2.9

3.3

3.4

3.3

 

5.6.18.2 The average scores, which represent the views of commanders not of the group named, show that the respondents felt that  morale in their Brigade and amongst their fellow commanders was slightly below moderate, whereas the other groups on their Stations were above moderate.  This may be due to a tendency to believe that ones’ own command is happier than the norm.

 

5.6.18.3 There was a strong significant correlation between the respondents’ views of morale in the Brigade and their view of the morale amongst station commanders. (Questions 19A and 19B).

                        Spearman R = 0.55    N = 56         p = 0.000

 

5.6.18.4 This may reflect a connection between the respondents overall outlook – optimistic or pessimistic - and their estimation of morale.  As respondent R22 commented:

“Morale surveys say more about the person you’re talking to than they do about the Brigade.”

 

 

5.6.19    Q.20 Staff sickness

5.6.19.1 Genuine sickness was given as the primary reason for sick leave amongst their workforce by thirty-five (62%) respondents (see Appendix IX).  The other main reason, given by fourteen respondents (25%), was that the necessity of maintaining crewing levels led to restrictions on personnel gaining leave when they wished, leading them to go sick to get the time off when they wanted it.

 

5.6.20    Q.21 Managerial freedom


5.6.20.1 Respondents were asked to select the degree of freedom they felt they had in managing from 5, where all decisions had to be referred, to 1 with full authority to manage.                                    Graph 5



 

5.6.20.2  Nineteen respondents (34%) felt that they had full freedom to manage (within the rules), and a further twenty-six (46%) felt they need only refer major decisions up one level.  The number of respondents scoring below the top two categories, eleven (20%), equates exactly to the number of comments made in Question 18 giving lack of authority as a cause of dissatisfaction.

 

5.6.20.3 There was no significant correlation between the respondents scores for managerial freedom and their total working hours (Time):

                        Spearman R = 0.22    N = 42         p = 0.18

      or the hours they spent at their desk (D).

                        Spearman R = -0.26              N = 42         p = 0.10

 

5.6.21   Q.22 Rolemap

5.6.21.1 Twenty-nine respondents (54%),had seen the rolemap for Station Commander.  There were no comments other than remarks about the wide range of the role. .  [N.B. the Danish respondents were not included in this question.]

 

5.6.22     Q.23 Tenure of commanders

5.6.22.1  Respondents were asked their opinion on how long – on average – station commanders should stay in post. 

 

Table 28

Tenure

No.

%ge

< 1 Year

0

0

1 - 2 Years

4

7

2 - 3 Years

19

34

3 - 4 Years

23

41

>4 Years

10

18

 

5.6.22.2 The replies indicate that a tenure of three to four years is seen by 50% of  respondents to be appropriate.  The average tenure of the commanders in the survey was 2.8 years, ranging from one month to eleven years.

 

 

5.6.23    Q.24 Post incident debriefs

5.6.23.1 All respondents stated that they would participate in debriefs after operational incidents.  Two respondents (4%) would be debriefed after even minor incidents, forty (71%) would do so after significant incidents and fourteen (25%) would be debriefed after all incidents.

 

5.6.24     Q.25 Guidance and advice

5.6.24.1  Respondents were asked where they would initially go to get guidance, support advice or reference on six issues (Personnel procedures, Equal opportunities, Complaints & grievances, Welfare, Discipline and Staff job descriptions).  Most respondents (>50%) turned first to written advice kept on station for issues involving personnel, equal opportunities, complaints & grievances an discipline.  On welfare issues and for copies of their staff’s job descriptions the commanders predominantly turned to specialist advice from divisional or Brigade headquarters.

Table 29

 

Overall percentage use of forms of guidance

IT Access

10%

Specialist Advice

28%

Uniformed Advice

18%

Written Request

4%

Station Copy

40%

 

5.6.24.2  Of those that used information kept on Station, 80% believed it to be current.

                                                                                              Table 30

Forms of Guidance & Support

Available within Brigades

 

Personnel Procedures

Equal Opportunities

Complaints/ Grievances

Welfare

Discipline

Staff JD's

IT Access

16%

13%

13%

4%

7%

7%

Specialist Advice

25%

32%

16%

50%

7%

43%

Uniformed Advice

9%

4%

21%

23%

39%

9%

Written Request

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

23%

Station Copy

50%

52%

50%

23%

46%

18%

 

5.6.25    Q.26 Job description

5.6.25.1 Thirty-four respondents, (63%),had seen the job description ( J.D.) for their role as Station Commander.  However eleven officers stated that they had made efforts to see the J.D. for interview for the post, and had not referred to it since the interview.  In effect this means that only twenty-three respondents (42%) received their J.D. as normal managerial practice.  [N.B. the Danish respondents were not included in this question.]

 

 

 

5.6.26    Q.27 Planning horizon

5.6.26.1  Respondents were asked how far ahead they planned their ‘normal’ activities.  Thirty-one respondents worked between one to four weeks in advance, with nearly 20% working only one to seven days ahead.

Table 31

Planning Horizon

No’s

%ge

1 - 7 days

11

19%

1 - 4 weeks

31

56%

1 - 3 months

9

16%

3 - 6 months

5

9%

1 Year

0

0%

 

5.6.26.2 The diary data indicates that respondents spend 86%of their time in planned rather than unplanned activities, a ratio of 6:1. 

 

5.6.26.3          There would appear to be no correlation between the respondents’ planning horizon and the number of hours of unplanned activity:

                        Spearman R = -0.27              N = 42         p = 0.08

      or the hours spent on planning (G6).

                        Spearman R = 0.26    N = 42         p = 0.09

Although the scores are not sufficiently strong to indicate that there is definitely no such relationship.

 

5.6.27             Q.28 Change factor

5.6.27.1  When asked what one factor they would change to assist in managing their Station the respondents replies covered a variety of factors, (see Appendix X)  The largest, thirteen replies (23%), wanted more administrative and managerial support. 

 

The next most common factor was a desire to see improvements in issues involving personnel, (more devolved authority, greater autonomy to settle issues on Station, etc).

                                                                          

            Table 32

Change Factor

Number of Replies

%ge of Replies

Increased administrative and managerial support

13

23

Improved personnel matters (increased devolvement, etc)

10

18

Removal of unnecessary additional duties, etc.

9

16

Improved MIS systems

7

13

Greater autonomy

6

10

Greater budgetary control

4

8

More support in dealing with premises

3

5

More training for role of Station Command

3

5

Better fireground catering arrangements

1

2

Totals

56

100

 

 

5.6.28   Q.29 Comments on study

5.6.28.1 There were no adverse comments on the study, twenty-two (40%) of the UK respondents asked to see the results.  Thirty (55%) of respondents commented that it was encouraging to see interest being shown in their role.

 

5.6.29    Q.30 Activity diary

5.6.29.1 All of the respondents offered to keep the two week activity diary, of these forty-two were returned completed, a 75% return rate.

 

 

5.7      Diary Statistics

The diaries were kept by the respondents, with codes being entered for every half-hour time period, recording the activity, the place and the subject that took up the greatest portion of each time ‘slot’.   Full details of all the returns from the questionnaire and diaries are given in Appendix V.  The returns for the diary, shown on a ‘daily’ basis are shown in Table 32.

 

5.7.1   Working Time:

      The average working week was 45.3 hours.  The respondents worked an average of 9.5 days per week, and 9.6 hours per day.  Sixteen respondents (38%) were averaging more than ten hours per day, with one respondent (R12) averaging eleven hours per day.   (This respondent later suffered from a stress related illness which kept him from work for six weeks) .

 

5.7.2   Variation:

This recorded the number of times respondents changed the subject of their activity, the average variation varied from three to eleven times per day, with an overall average of 5.8 changes.  A change every 1.6 hours.

 

5.7.3   Fragmentation:

There were, on average, 2.6 hours per day (27%) when respondents suffered interruptions, of which 1.1 hours per day (11%) consisted of more than one interruption.

5.7.4   Planning:

5.7.4.1            The ratio of planned to unplanned activity was approximately 6:1, with an average of 8.3 hours per day in planned activity (86%) and 1.3 hours unplanned (14%).  There was  a large variation in the respondents answers.  Time spent in unplanned activity during the fourteen days ranged from 1 hour  out of 90.5 hours worked, 1.1% (R21) to 36.5 hours out of 99 worked, 36% (R41).

 

5.7.4.2            There was no apparent relationship between officers who had received time management training (Q12K) and any reduction in variation, fragmentation, or total hours of their work. (V, FX1, FX>1 & Time). However as the sample size was only twelve this finding may not be reliable.  One respondent summed up his opinion of the time management training he had received, “There’s no point in (learning) time management if you aren’t master of your time; twenty DOs can ask me to do things.”

 

5.7.5   Disturbance:

5.7.5.1            This refers to calls made on the officers’ out of normal working hours.  The variation in disturbance levels and time disturbed were large.  The average was 0.9 disturbances per day, lasting for forty-two minutes.  However this ranged from five respondents who reported no disturbances during the fourteen day period, to one respondent (R33) who reported 82 disturbances totalling over eleven hours. (N.B. two of the former group were not on flexible duty roster and so would not be disturbed out of hours. 

 


DAILY

 

 

 

 

 

Days

Hours