Beginning with the next issue, Industrial Fire World is publishing a three-part series on mission driven culture, a leadership development program being tested by the International Association of Fire Chiefs partner Mission-Centered Solutions (MCS).

IAFC's mission is to lead, educate, and serve fire-rescue leadership. Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest companies with one of the largest industrial fire brigades, recognized this fact when it turned to the IAFC to help it bring about significant culture change within its Fire Protection Department (FrPD).

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set extremely ambitious goals for Saudi Aramco: by 2020, it intends to be the world’s leading integrated energy and chemicals company, facilitating the sustainable and diversified expansion of the Kingdom’s economy and enabling a globally competitive and vibrant Saudi energy sector. This is closely intertwined with a wider shift within the kingdom itself.

To meet its audacious vision, Saudi Aramco’s FrPD is going further than hiring consultants to develop a strategic plan, it has decided to lead from the front by giving its junior officers and upcoming firefighters the opportunity to become the change from within. It is undertaking a grass roots culture change by empowering these young men to live and breathe a mission-driven culture for six months and bring back what they’ve learned.

Thanks to a company-wide commitment to workplace safety and to excellent fire prevention programs, the firefighters from the FrPD get very little operational experience. Therefore, as an industrial fire brigade, Saudi Aramco FrPD faces a significant challenge: how do you grow leaders in a low-call volume environment? How can they build the hard drive they need to become effective decision-makers? How do you find opportunities to hone decision-making under pressure, implement skills, and practice managing dynamic emergency scenes?

Saudi Aramco approached the IAFC to help it design a solution. Together, they developed a vision and action plan: a six-month long program in which its future leaders would be embedded in leading US fire departments to gain operational experience, all while absorbing the qualities and values of mission-driven organizations. The IAFC partnered with San Diego Fire and Rescue Department to launch the first installment of the program in July 2016.

The principle is simple: the Saudi Aramco firefighters are embedded within the department for six months and rotate through the different stations to gain operational experience. They ride as the fifth firefighter on the engine or truck and are allowed to do everything within the officer’s comfort zone.

The fellowship begins with an orientation to introduce the Saudi Aramco firefighters to the program and get them prepared to participate operationally within their host department. The fellowship is punctuated with targeted leader development training. The leadership component is led by the IAFC’s partner Mission-Centered Solutions (MCS). This unique partnership was born out of likeminded leaders getting together to address the growing challenges of the fire service.

Mission-Driven Culture (MDC) is about principlesbased leadership in high-risk environments. Senior leaders articulate the intent – the end state the organization wishes to attain. Junior leaders are then empowered with exercising disciplined initiative and using their professional judgment to achieve results.

Formal leader training is designed to meet the unique needs of each level of leadership operating within the MDC system. Courses are targeted at the operator, emerging leader, company officer, battalion chief, senior staff and executive levels. The training is highly experiential and contextualized, and is designed to amplify both individual and organizational effects.