“Golden Arches” Management

By: David F. Peterson

Chances are your favorite dining spot hinges on the head chef’s skills. You most likely dine there because of his fine offerings of cuisine, and that is what keeps you returning. But what happens to the quality of the meals served when the head chef is not on-duty? Most likely, the food lacks the richness and quality and, consequently, your satisfaction may be lowered. The absence of the head chef may even hasten your return.

Contrast the above with the operations of McDonald’s restaurants, where there are many “chefs” or food preparers worldwide. No matter which McDonald’s restaurant you visit around the world–Moscow, Hong Kong, Paris, or Conshocken–the quality of the meal is always the same. It does not compare with the quality of your favorite restaurant when the head chef prepares it, but it is consistent. This is known as the “Golden Arches” form of management. Each McDonald’s restaurant has a consistent, minimum standard. There are no ups or downs but merely an acceptable quality.

Golden Arches management, a concept offered by Michael Callan, a well-known national haz-mat presenter, also has applications for firefighting and hazardous-materials response operations. It is a dangerous practice to depend on one person in any emergency response and perhaps the biggest issue is the outcome of emergency operations when that same person is absent. Dependence on one single person creates a system where other people become ineffective or incompetent when their performance is critical. Contrarily, if a system is developed where all personnel are trained in a similar fashion and are adequately prepared to perform at a minimum level, then dependence on a single person is avoided. In this system, successful outcomes at emergencies are virtually guaranteed at least at a minimum acceptable level.

To employ the Golden Arches management concept, effective training is essential. The minimum acceptable response criteria must be identified and spelled out to all personnel in addition to the methods of achieving the benchmarks. Then effective training must be administered and repeated as necessary until all personnel can demonstrate their competency. A response program that fosters these ideals can flourish, and every emergency response can be handled consistently, efficiently, and safely.

David F. Peterson, a 22-year veteran of the fire service, is a lieutenant with the Madison (WI) Fire Department, where he is also the operations and training coordinator for the Regional Level A Haz Mat Response Team. He is the owner of Americhem Safety & Environmental, LLC, a haz-mat training and consulting firm in Janesville, Wisconsin. He is also an IAFF Master Trainer, an adjunct instructor for the National Fire Academy and the Emergency Management Institute, and an FDIC presenter. He is the author of the column Haz Mat: On the Line for Fire Engineering. He is a member of the NFPA Classification and Properties of Hazardous Chemical Data Committee and the founder and past president of the Wisconsin Association of Hazardous Materials Responders, Inc.

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