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The Single Point of Failure


The military spends a great deal of time teaching their officers and non-commissioned officers about management and how to efficiently manage a group of people under a variety of circumstances and environments.  It is, of course, an important consideration given what the military does on a regular basis.

In the military, “giving orders” is an important aspect as it enables a group of people to act a certain way. However, a management system in many other organizations must be fluid, with individuals in the system working simultaneously without the need of direction in most circumstances. 

Single Point of Failure

Some managers are naturally micromanagers and without realizing it, may actually demotivate their staff. The single-point-of-failure manager will work longer hours and will create an organizational culture where employees will only do the bare minimum instead of going above and beyond their respective roles. Further, employees often come to this type of manager as the main decision-maker.

This concept can also be defined as an "element or part of a system that does not have a backup" - which is why it is so detrimental to a team or an organization.

In emergency situations it is tempting to want to micromanage ever single situation and employee. But micromanaging is time-consuming and creates a single-point-of-failure, rendering employees as unable to really handle situations on their own.

When the single point of failure exists, tasks are rarely handled in an efficient manner. Decisions have to be formally made by the manager and the wheels of progress can stop dead in its tracks.


When this scenario exists in a team setting, employees within the organization or team often have a difficult time making decisions on their own. For those who are independent thinkers naturally, it can be a difficult thing for them to follow a leader with this leadership style.

In turn, such a management style can create situations where employees are no longer motivated to do their tasks and the team and organization suffers. The single point of failure can have a terribly detrimental effect on a team -- it simply does not help.

Emergency management

In the midst of a disaster, a single-point-of-failure scenario is beyond problematic. While it can be terrible for the motivation and efficiency of a team, it can also create ample opportunity for the team or organization to have problems with efficiency.

Anyone in an emergency managerial position should contemplate whether or not they are a single point of failure so they can make adjustments to get away from this habit.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.