RescueDigest Rules of Three: Do You Get Compliance, Cooperation, or Collaboration?

Compliance, Cooperation, or Collaboration?

These are listed in order of how well your colleagues or subordinates will work with you.

Whether you were leading a group, or an entire organization, mentoring an individual or individuals, or acting in the role of an educator, today’s rule of three will help you clarify how well people are working together.
What are you were trying to figure it out yourself or trying to clarify it for others, if you’re thinking about expectations and consequences,

…it helps to have a clear and simple framework to describe how well people are hitting their targets.


The lowest level allowable is compliance. While you may have some people who are not yet meeting this mark, it is obviously unacceptable to allow noncompliance in your organization. Not only is it important for you to make the “bare minimum” expectations clear to everyone, everyone should see that those standards are being upheld throughout the organization. That is not to say that anyone who becomes noncompliant for any reason should be fired, or even punished, but the bare minimum this should be clear to everyone. Once the expectations them selves are clear, you should make sure that it is clear for each member of the organization if they are failing to meet, meeting, or exceeding compliance.
Emergency services are unique professions in their need to act both individually and in teams. Type A personalities enjoy working individually and we love our individual freedom. We may chafe at having to be a true part of the team. That’s why, one level up from compliance, is cooperation. This is where people are just starting to be able to work together to achieve or exceed the goals set in compliance.

 Some people think that they are real team players just because they can get through a call without openly fighting with the other people there working with.


Cooperation is one step up from compliance, and an important one because we have to be able to work not only with the other people in our organization, but also with people from other organizations. That’s right, you heard it here. Fire and EMS need to be able to work together. Firefighters and cops need to help each other out. And some organizations, and with some individuals, this is no problem. If there’s an issue, you need to clarify the difference between compliance, cooperation, and the highest level, collaboration.
The difference between cooperation and collaboration is the difference between a bunch of people working near each other, and people working as a true team.


Collaboration produces better results than you could ever get with just a bunch of people working together.

How one achieves collaboration will differ with the individuals and tasks involved, but it can only be achieved if everyone understands exactly the difference between compliance, cooperation, and true collaboration. Using this rule of three to provide a clear and simple framework of compliance, cooperation, and collaboration, should help you move forward to achieving those results.

About romduck

Rom Duckworth is a dedicated emergency responder, author, and educator with more than thirty years of experience working in career and volunteer fire departments, hospital healthcare systems, and private emergency medical services. Rom is a career fire captain and paramedic EMS Coordinator for the Ridgefield (CT) Fire Department and director of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. Rom holds a master’s degree in public administration, is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program, and is the recipient of the NAEMT Presidential Award, American Red Cross Hero Award, Sepsis Alliance Sepsis Hero Award, and the EMS 10 Innovators Award. Rom is the author of "Duckworth on Education," as well as chapters in more than a dozen EMS, fire, rescue, and medical textbooks and over 100 published articles in fire and EMS magazines. A member of the NAEMT Board of Directors, as well as other national and international advocacy and advisory boards, Rom continues to work for the advancement of emergency services professions. Contact Rom via