Fessing up is so good

Peter Marshall who has been the police commissioner for two days said on the radio today that the organisation needed to address the issues raised in the PWC report. This compares with the previous leadership who’s reaction I blogged about in January.

When something is wrong with an organisation’s culture it’s easy and defensive to blame those that found out about it for not doing a proper job, or for someone reporting it. When that happens you’re on a slippery slope to defensive nowhereland. Time to retire probably.

On the other hand for Marshall to publicly state there are pockets of officers who don’t get it, who need to or go, is gutsy to start with and in the end absolutely the best thing he could do for the police.

He won’t root out all the officers himself, but clear unambiguous statements from the leader of such an important organisation in our society are critical to success. Other police leaders should be in no doubt as to what is expected.

As I said in my previous blog, there shouldn’t be any tolerance for the sort of behaviours identified in the report. I hope we’re getting back on track with all our police.

I say well done. A great start. Great leadership.


Time to cull the rotten part of the culture

So out of touch

This is the darkest week in our recent history. A favourite and much-loved city devastated with loss and destruction on an appalling scale. I feel pained and I am sure most Kiwis do. The international community has come to our aid with generous and unconditional support. It seems like the New South Wales Fire rescue were there almost as quickly as our people. It’s heart-warming.

Last week the Independent Police Conduct Authority released its report into the failure by the police to investigate child sex complaints. Is is just me, or is it that every time a significant report is realised by the IPCA they’ve already worked out with the police that the situation was “historical” and “new procedures have been put in place”? If that’s the case, what’s the point of the IPCA? I think that the police are careful and concerned enough to make appropriate changes without a bloated bureaucracy reminding them years later. If that wasn’t enough did you notice that they never even bothered to interview the policeman who was apparently at the centre of the allegations!  This is not the first time this has happened – they once told a complainant that they had reviewed all available evidence in the case. Turns out the IPCA hadn’t spoken to one single witness they had been told about.  The person concerned left soon after.

But that’s just the beginning. In this week of grief, sadness when even the most cynical will probably be holding fondly the work of our police and other services as they pick through the carnage that is Christchurch, the IPCA open their files:  this is the week that they decide it’s a good time to announce that they recommend the police should apologise to Tony Veitch for releasing material to the media. That’s right – our guardians of the police have the most astonishingly bad taste and irrelevant contribution to this dreadful week. Ignore for a moment the rights and wrongs of the Veitch case – that’s not the point here.

This is the week that all those involved in the Maori Party problems, the Limo replacements, welfare reform and other seemingly pressing problems, have been gracious and tactful enough to recognise that this is the time to reflect on our community in Christchurch. And support our boys and girls in blue.

Sometimes the moment is big enough to say that a failure in leadership is fatal. When leadership is so, so out of touch with the community it seeks to serve, it should go. And now.

So let’s show we care for Canterbury. I’m sure most of us do.


Sorry officer, I never usually speed

There is a lack of faith in Police leadership because rhetoric does not always align to action” reads the second to last sentence of the body of the latest report into the police’s change management programme following the Commission of Inquiry into police conduct.

Commissioner Broad in his blog commenting on the unfortunate negative focus of the report, records himself as satisfied as to progress on the culture issue. Police union boss Greg O’Connor says that this report will to more harm than good.

My latin scholar son Thomas would be proud of me: argumentum ad consequentiam meaning X is true/false because of how much I like/dislike its consequences.

So is the report wrong? A listing of things ticked off as Commissioner Broad has done on his blog and Greg O’Connors “telling bad news will only do harm!” is enough to convince me all is not right. Then there’s the report.

I’d like to see leadership from the police and its union that even occasionally acknowledged that they aren’t perfect. Then we’d know that there was a willingness for change. If every problem is minimised as a bad apple or “we’ve already got procedures in place to cover that” or “it was the fault of the other driver” then we can be sure that nothing is changing.

Because the first step in changing a culture or for that matter, a behaviour, is to want to. And that means accepting that what’s going on is wrong.

The police should reflect our tolerant, secular and largely peaceful population. Not the bullying and harassment that is obviously still happening inside the police – even if it’s only in small numbers it’s not good enough. If we can’t trust what they do with each other, how can we trust them to deal with us?

So, sorry sir,  I’ll be issuing you an infringement notice – even one act of carelessness like this can cause a tragedy.


Integrative thinking with Judith

Everything can be understood and is explainable. Cause and effect will explain everything we do. So if we put guns in all the police cars then that will deal with the apparently permanent increase in attacks on police. Just as more police officers, tasers, harsher sentences, more prisons, less parole have all reduced crime. Excuse me a modicum of sarcasm. Could it be that these measures actually don’t do anything? Has the crime rate reduced? The uncomfortable demeanour of the police commissioner fronting media on the proposal and John Key’s caution contrasts starkly with the forthright, simplistic “they’re armed more so we have to be” approach of the police union and our minister of police Judith Collins. Why?

The mental models that determine our world view are deeply rooted in beliefs from the last several hundred years where at times we as humans have thought that we were the centre of the universe (literally!), that the solar system was akin to a clock with moving parts, all of which were understandable, that we would eventually understand all things and that cause and effect answer all problems. If that sounds odd ask yourself: have you recently addressed an issue at work with confidence that your understood the problem, and that all was required was some creative thinking around the solution. You might even have congratulated yourself on your creative thinking.

Our police minister has said that she simply waits on a recommendation from the police commissioner and a decision will be made. Well, we know what that recommendation is going to be. So advocacy (sort of) and implementation.

Were any counter views sought or listened to? The prime minister, I would say, but for political reasons he doesn’t want to appear weak on crime. But none are asked for publicly.

So what is wrong with all of this? Integrative thinkers understand the concept of mental models – the world views that shape their thinking, they are open to other world views, in fact, they openly acknowledge that there will be conflicting systems at play. Paradox is embraced. Advocacy is eliminated and replaced with open enquiry. Integrative and strategic thinkers focus on understanding the real problem which may not be linear – in fact it almost never is in intractable problems. If it were, it wouldn’t be intractable.

In government circles there is a phrase “whole of government” which if used properly might head a government to think integratively. Imagine seeing the head of the Ministry of Social Development with the police commissioner at a press conference announcing a series of changes that were to attack crime and disrespect to the police. Maybe that sounds all soft, liberal and do-gooder to you. Maybe it is. But just maybe we might start to resolve something so serious as increased crime. Because so far, we’re doing nothing.

It’s a line of failures brought on by linear thinking and a belief that we know everything so we only need to find more solutions. What’s the problem I say.

If you find yourself thinking: well what would you do about it man?, you’ve done it. Straight to solution.