Towards a common measure of operational effectiveness for the UK Fire and Rescue Service

Operational effectiveness explains how well an organisation is performing in terms of maximising their resources to provide goods and/or services and reduce deficits. Within conventional operations management (OM), performance objectives focus around quality, cost, flexibility, speed and dependability. Performance measures can then be designed to ascertain how closely an organisation is meeting those objectives. Performance monitoring within the UK Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) is directed around the data required annually by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on key performance indicators and these reporting systems are seen as exemplars of the new public management profile across Europe (Carvalho, Fernandes, Lambert and Lapsley, 2006). However comparisons between services become difficult due to variation in how this data are reported across the different services. A toolkit exists within the UK FRS to assist services as part of peer auditing which can be used for services to become more self-aware of their performance and help with strategy development (CFOA, 2012). This has been service developed and so features key areas of concern for Fire and Rescue Services associated with the delivery of effective fire and rescue provision for the public. We argue that this toolkit does not allow for rigorous empirical comparisons between services as part of organisational research and improvement processes. Much of the toolkit uses subjective qualitative benchmarking which serves as a useful tool for giving meaningful feedback to services on performance but is problematic when tracking changes over time and between services. We propose that by using a common framework to measure operational effectiveness that is based on existing quantitative data, the UK FRS will be able to make meaningful comparisons and offer a clearer insight in to performance of individual services useful for strategic planning. In addition, it will offer an empirically developed, standardised tool for measuring operational effectiveness when conducting research with the FRS community. This article outlines the development of such a framework with one UK FRS, to be known as ‘The Shires’ to protect anonymity, and a case study of how it has been used within another FRS, ‘The Counties’, to measure performance as part of an ongoing review of specific organisational change activities within the service; the introduction of Day Crewing Plus.