Most senior leaders have post-graduate qualifications, either a general MBA or a more profession-specific one such as a Masters in Police Leadership. Most of these post graduate degrees contain electives on change management, innovation, and leading people.
Yet the ability of senior police managers to deliver the lessons learned from these courses seems to be lost in translation.
Nearly everyone I have spoken with can regale stories of change management gone wrong. Stories of change management that defy all the foundational elements of good change leadership.
Where the leaders asleep during the class that outlined consultation and communication as key to bringing your people on the journey?
Did they skip the reading material on the importance of engaging change champions or of keeping your middle managers informed so they can support their teams?
Why is there such a disconnect between what leaders know needs to be done to deliver transformation and what they actually do .
I get that real life is more complex than a text book. I get that even the most senior of leaders are at the whim of others more senior and in the case of the public sector are at the whim of politicians. Yet, why after all the case studies and the lessons learned do we still struggle to lead organisational change effectively?
Law enforcement has traditionally been a slow-moving beast. As a previous Assistant Commissioner of mine used to say about changing direction in policing…’it is like turning a shipping tanker’. Police need to become more like a super yacht in order to keep pace with external threats and internal risks.
Poor or slow change management has collateral damage that goes unnoticed while all attention is being focused on the what the change management team is doing.
Projects get put on hold, sometimes until all traction is lost and the project falls off the radar. Staff who are not directly working with the change management project team go into a holding pattern while being told that there is urgency to implement change and at the same time not being given any clear direction on what they should be doing.
It becomes a waiting game. This is the danger zone for staff morale, engagement and performance.
Energy and focus becomes directed towards managing uncertainty. Energy and focus becomes inward looking in an effort to protect what used to be. Lack of trust begins to grow as people feel isolated from the bigger picture and threatened by lack of communication.
A law enforcement agency is like a large shipping tanker and organisational change will not be simple or easy but leaders must do better if they are to create the type of agile organisation that is required to succeed in the modern environment.
During change, there must be an equal amount of leadership focus on business as usual so that there is a synergy between change efforts and the daily work that must continue to roll out.
There is a danger that the change management project team becomes a separate entity to business as usual, thus creating a sense of us (the ones doing the business of policing) and them (those doing the sexy business of change management). Who do you think feels less powerful and engaged?
Bridging the divide between those making the change happen and the rest of the organisation is critical. It requires a non-siloed approach to change which is a shift in how police tend to do business. The creation of a specialist unit or a taskforce is something that police do very well. It brings together a range of specialists to target very specific problem and deliver results. These taskforces work in a very isolated way with the rest of the organisation often not really understanding what they are doing or how that activity relates to other business units.
Change management cannot be dealt with using the ‘taskforce or project model’. There are components or specific elements of change that have milestones, such as physical relocation or merging of units, but overall change needs to be considered a continual process. A continual process that can be ramped up or scaled down depending on current circumstances. A process that is integrated across all organisation units rather than a unit that sits apart from business as usual.
To achieve this, police leaders will have to reflect on lessons learned from other businesses and be brave in implementing them in the real world of law enforcement.
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Empowering Managers | Engaging People | Evaluating Performance | Facilitating Change
When your business grows or changes shape the same systems, processes and role requirements must also change. Evaluating what you are doing, how you are doing it and the outcomes you are getting it is what I do best.
Having an evaluation expert with outside eyes undertake a structured and unbiased view of business processes and people performance can point you in the right direction to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
Send me an email if you would like to discuss how I could work with your team or broader business.