A range of evidence suggests an apparent and imminent return of ‘CompStat’ style performance management in policing. Whether it be presentations by DCCs, reports by ‘think tanks’, the words of Bill Bratton, or announcements by Home Secretaries, the signals are clear.
I therefore decided to compile this blog all about these pending changes, the performance management environment, and your responsibilities as a police leader when choosing to step up and into such an environment via promotions. I’ll warn you now, it’s a monster blog. But it will also help you link to the CVF behaviours and prepare more widely for police promotion selection processes, promotion board questions and briefings or presentation scenarios. For example, consider the following forward-facing interview question:
“As a new Sergeant / Inspector / Chief Inspector, how will you lead performance and change among your teams?”
Let me know in the comments what you think! Now let’s begin…
Carpe Diem: Seize the Day
“British Policing is in crisis. One in seven of the 43 police forces of England and Wales have now been placed in ‘special measures’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. Collapsing public confidence. A non-existent performance regime.” – Policy Exchange Report
Last month, I attended the Emergency Services Show at the NEC. While there, I attended a talk entitled: A Victim-Focused Approach to Performance, delivered by Paul Anderson, Deputy Chief Constable of Humberside police. Advertised as a ‘fireside chat’ (in these times of energy crisis, there was no fire!), DCC Anderson alluded to Humberside Police’s approach to managing performance. I recognised the value of this conversation especially for promotion board candidates aiming to achieve promotion to the federated ranks of police Sergeant, Inspector and Chief Inspector.
It’s rare that aspiring candidates have the opportunity to benefit from such valuable insights, giving an overview on performance issues from a DCC in this way. Recognising this and to support aspiring officers, I listened intently and took notes for this blog, an in-depth follow-up to the Rank Success podcast I was also inspired to record. Take a listen below to Police Performance: ‘The Spanish Inquisition’ (nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!).
As a coach/mentor supporting UK police officers to successfully achieve promotion, the talk was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. Spookily, I found myself sat next to an officer who recognised me, having previously attended one of my promotion masterclasses in Birmingham! He informed me of his success, having come top in his force Inspector boards. I was pleased to also learn that after recommending my digital toolkit to numerous constables on his team, five of them went on to score highest in subsequent force Sergeant boards. Like most of my success stories, this feedback about Rank Success performance in serving the needs of aspiring officers was unsolicited but much appreciated!
He had also recognised the value of DCC Anderson’s talk ahead of his imminent Chief Inspector promotion board, prompted by something he had recalled from Rank Success. For effective preparation, I encourage candidates to think about the different dimensions of the role they aspire to, especially the primary function: driving and managing performance.
Turning the Ship Around
“Performance can be a little brutal, as it can be uncompromising.” – DCC Paul Anderson, Humberside Police
As an aspiring promotion candidate, there are various approaches to leadership. There’s a wealth of resources to aid your CPD, whereby reading is a simple first step to raise your awareness, support your thinking and develop your understanding around perspectives of organisational performance. I embed above a recent addition to my “All Leaders Read” YouTube playlist, if you’re not sure where to start!
I’m personally interested in the different leadership approaches, behaviours, and how leaders achieve desired results. Leading people, performance and change are core expectations of all police supervisors. Turning performance around is no mean feat, whether in a police force or other organisational context.
Leadership impact and context is what I find fascinating. Not always the specifics of what was achieved (or the ‘result’ as I allude to in structuring your evidence), but certainly how the leader(s) went about it. Indeed, I’m always seeking to use the learning and differing perspectives to help improve police leadership, via my offering of promotion support products. Interestingly, police promotion panels also want to know about this. For example, consider this rear-facing practice interview question:
“How have your leadership actions contribute to improved performance outcomes?”
Outside of policing, a couple of personal favourites I have read about include the leadership example and achievements of Captain D. Michael Abrashoff. Appointed to command the worst performing ship, USS Benfold, he improved it to become the best performing. What a turnaround! Captain David Marquet is another, who successfully transformed the submarine USS Santa Fe (in less than a year) from worst submarine in the fleet, to the best. In this example, Capt. Marquet adopted a ‘leader-leader’ approach to command, instead of a ‘leader-follower’ model.
There’s clear blue sea between the more emotionally aware approaches to performance highlighted above, versus the ‘cruel’ approach and alleged brutal leadership of Captain William Bligh, as portrayed in the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty:
“My point is that cruelty with purpose is not cruelty, its efficiency.”
Returning to the policing context and turning performance around, DCC Anderson alluded to Humberside being historically the worst of 43 forces, graded inadequate and placed into special measures. Side note: Keep an eye on my PEEL summary videos playlist, where I’ll add the latest Humberside PEEL inspection when published by HMICFRS. He spoke of how turning things around to improve force performance had been “testing and challenging” and emphasised, “Continuous improvement is absolutely key.”
Remedies referred to included:
- Leadership at all levels
- Collective responsibility
- Expectations of rank
With this in mind, I found some of DCC Anderson’s choice of words and language intriguing, possibly a little ominous! For example: “Performance can be a little brutal, as it can be uncompromising.” He casually used the word “brutal” several times, when referring to ongoing efforts to turn Humberside’s performance around. I say intriguing because there is no ‘nice’ interpretation of brutal. Synonyms include savage, ruthless, cruel, heartless, inhuman, pitiless, severe, callous, unfeeling, vicious, and vile.
Perhaps an apt introduction therefore into many people’s perspectives surrounding ‘CompStat’…
“CompStat: A shot of adrenaline to the organisation, right to the heart.” – Louis Anemone, former NYPD Police Chief
When I heard “performance can be a little brutal”, I was immediately reminded of the uncompromising and brutal approach to performance management meetings depicted in the American cop series, ‘The Wire’. If you are unfamiliar, it’s where weekly crime statistics are made the focus of intense scrutiny sessions. Police Precinct Commanders are raked over the coals for failure to register sufficient continuous improvement or productivity. Picture senior police officers cowed, intimidated, leant over washroom basins or vomiting, before the imminent prospect of bullying, intimidation and deliberate professional embarrassment they are about to experience… from their own leaders.
Known as ‘CompStat’ (short for COMPuter comparison STATistics) these performance meetings are powerfully dramatised in the series, The Wire. For a flavour, here’s one scene from the series. It’s probably about as brutal as you can get in terms of working environment and toxic leadership. I share this with a ‘mind your language’ warning!
Louis Anemone, a former NYPD Police Chief described CompStat as: “a shot of adrenaline to the organisation, right to the heart.” You might be thinking CompStat, as depicted in The Wire, is quite an unpleasant way to achieve performance improvements and to treat people.
Here’s another dramatised CompStat meeting. It’s certainly uncompromising, where a Precinct Commander is unceremoniously removed from his post, replaced immediately with his Deputy in front of peers and colleagues. Savage stuff indeed…
If you want to find out more about the context of CompStat being introduced in America, I highly recommend the book Turnaround by William J (aka Bill) Bratton CBE and Peter Knobler. Bratton is a former Commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and former Chief of Police of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Turnaround is a fascinating book, covering three decades of policing urban America, from politics to corruption and from leadership approaches to crime control.
When sworn in as New York City’s police commissioner in 1994, Bratton made what many considered a bold promise: The NYPD would fight crime in every borough, and win. It seemed foolhardy; surely everybody knows you can’t win the war on crime? But Bratton delivered. In just twenty-seven months, serious crime in New York City went down by 33%, the murder rate halved, and he even featured on the cover of Time magazine. The CompStat programme was part of his policies, described as the ‘big bang’ of modern data driven policing.
Here’s a snapshot of a real-life NYPD CompStat meeting:
Just a thought: For transparency and learning, why not video our own performance meetings like this?
Learning from Bratton – At All Levels
“I am not a leader who kicks, beats and drags people along. I am someone who truly believes in inspirational leadership and motivational leadership and in trying to find ways to give people that opportunity to shine. At the same time, as a manager particularly in the police world, I understand the importance of accountability. We need to hold people accountable.” – Bill Bratton.
I’ve been an admirer of Bill Bratton and his leadership approach, ever since I watched a video of a speech he delivered in 2003 to The University of Southern California whilst Chief of the LAPD. At the time, I was a Detective Sergeant, aspiring to promotion. The talk resonated so much with me, I sat down and transcribed the whole thing! It was just full of fascinating insights into his style and approach to performance management.
I have since used this as a resource to support, challenge and respectfully provoke the thinking and discussion amongst a new generation of UK police officers, aspiring to Sergeant, Inspector, or beyond. Those individuals have then successfully secured formal leadership positions in highly competitive force selection processes.
Here’s several insights I’ve selected for you, transcribed from the original speech and shared with the advance permission of William Bratton himself:
“Change is most of the time a good thing and should be seen as a necessary part of any organisation moving forward. I have tried to become a change agent. When I encounter organisations where there is complacency, I get people to question their values, ideals and goals and in a sense put them into crisis, challenging their self-confidence and try to move them in different directions.”
“Seek change opportunities. Re-shape, re-focus and re-energise and get members of the organisation to embrace the changes.. “to the extent that I am behind them as they move ahead or even better standing on the side lines cheering them on…because that’s the best place for any leader to be.”
“I think the most successful people in any environment are those who have leadership and management skills. You can be successful as a leader and not have management skills and you can be successful as a manager and not have leadership skills, we are all familiar with the different styles leaders and managers have, but I’d like to think that the most successful can blend leadership and management skills.”
This is the point at which academics started their study of Bratton. Tipping Point Leadership ‘at a glance’ is a study of Bratton and his techniques. In it, they refer to 4 hurdles, which Bratton overcomes in each ‘turnaround’ of his organisations:
- Cognitive hurdle: “Put managers face to face with the problems and customers and find new ways to communicate.”
- Resource hurdle: Focus on the hotspots and bargain with partners (think ‘austerity’!)… “Unlike the private sector most of the environments I have been privileged to work in have not had the privilege of a lot of resources. It has been a matter of taking the resources existing… for the next two years I’m probably going to have less to work with than I have now… I am very comfortable with the fact that with even less resources we will achieve even more results moving forward and hopefully making the case and educating the public that if they were to give us more it would be used well.”
- Motivational hurdle: “I think I do this very well and I am a very good motivator of people both in terms of inspirationally but also over time I have developed systems to hold them accountable so that you can also motivate them from behind….a little prodding now and then never really hurts in the sense of if you are having trouble motivating them through inspiration.”
- Political hurdle: “Identify and silence internal opponents and isolate external ones.”
Most police leaders can only dream of achieving the kind of performance leaps and turnarounds Bill Bratton delivered as Police Chief. Whilst it’s an example from the USA, I encourage UK promotion candidates who are serious about achieving promotion to include Turnaround (as per my video in the previous section) and Tipping Point Leadership as meaningful CPD resources. They provide a perspective on leading/managing performance collaboratively and at the level/rank aspired to.
Why? Because it can help you predict and anticipate potential promotion board questions and scenarios. For example:
“As a newly promoted leader, could you share with us what your approach to managing performance will be?”
Accountability or Count Orlock?
The purpose of performance management is a simple and legitimate one: To improve policing and more effectively deliver a service to the public. We need not even depart from the Peelian Principles, most notably:
“To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.”
It is interesting to note from the CompStat snapshot of a real-life meeting, the Chief stating that the “the goal here is not arrests, but crime prevention”.
Holding leaders and individuals to account for performance for their areas of responsibility is also a legitimate aim, indeed essential to effective leadership. CompStat itself was clearly intended to facilitate such processes, which can certainly be done in a transformative and coaching leadership style, should DCCs choose such methods.
As alluded to my blog, Step Up or Step Aside, if you’re not prepared to be placed in the spotlight and held accountable for your performance, don’t take the King’s Shilling to become Chief Inspector. Bear in mind, it’s a gateway rank to Superintendent.
What is not legitimate and completely unacceptable is when senior leaders use performance as a beating stick to savage their teams, be they PCs or Superintendents. The horror stories are countless, which I’m sure you could add to. Officers at all ranks quite rightly have trepidations about the spectre of a return to CompStat style performance management, mainly owing to misuse and/or misunderstandings.
There are unfortunately several officers in leadership positions who do see such meetings as an opportunity to abuse their position of power. Some even enjoy making subordinates feel uncomfortable. Those on the receiving end of such abuses have described such formal performance meetings as ‘smacky bum-bum time’, or more brutally, ‘rank-spanking’.
See for example this interesting video about the ‘Psychopath Test’ by Jon Ronson, which is in effect a precis of his book by the same name. I’m reliably informed this video once featured on a senior leadership development day in Devon & Cornwall police. Jon expertly articulates the fact that generally, those with psychopathic or sociopathic traits tend to be attracted to senior leadership positions, and so those levels of the organisation have a higher proportion of individuals with such traits than the general public.
But when the intention is sincere, and it is merely a misunderstanding of what performance management is (or should be), that’s an easier problem to solve, as opposed to rooting out the psychopaths in high office…
Raising the Barr…
It’s probably a good point here to define what performance management actually means. First, let’s look at an organisational level perspective, courtesy of Wikipedia:
“Performance management is the process of ensuring that a set of activities and outputs meets an organisation’s goals, in an effective and efficient manner.”
This seems relevant. When it comes to then applying performance management at an interpersonal level, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) offer an alternative, person-centred perspective, describing performance management as “the attempt to maximise the value that employees create.” On their helpful performance management factsheet, they also outline activities associated with managing performance:
- Establish objectives for individuals and teams to see their part in the organisation’s mission and strategy.
- Improve performance among employees, teams and, ultimately, organisations.
- Hold people to account for their performance by linking it to reward, career progression and termination of contracts.
Either way, this gives a good foundation and shows for example performance does NOT mean ‘counting loads of data’. For supervisors, a good conduit for managing the performance of individuals is clearly the PDR process.
So what does good performance management looks like? How should it align to strategic goals and can people be held robustly (yet reasonably) accountable? There are great answers out there, yet these are not always found in UK policing, be it within individual forces or in guidance from bodies like the College of Policing or HMICFRS. Sometimes, you must look literally on the other side of the world!
In policing, it’s rare that Sergeants, Inspectors, or other leaders get any meaningful guidance or structured CPD on managing performance, or what to expect from performance accountability meetings. This is a disastrous oversight within British policing! There’s also a lack of understanding in some Chief Officer and Executive ranks, including the setting of clear and meaningful strategies and priorities (evidenced by a myriad of buzzword-laden strategy documents). We clearly therefore have a situation of the ‘blind leading the blind’; certainly when it comes to knowing the difference between metrics, KPIs, performance management, and management information.
I’d encourage police leaders at all levels to explore the expert performance management and strategy guidance freely provided by Stacey Barr. She is based in Australia, yet the themes and issues resonate well with UK policing. Her ‘Measure Up’ blog is yet another free resource for perspectives on performance management. Particularly for example as an aspiring promotion candidate who hopes to be able to offer well-researched responses during professional conversations around performance management.
Examples of solutions to common problems when it comes to performance in policing include:
- Clearly defining the strategic goals in the first place (including the removal of ‘weasel words’, aka ‘bulls*** bingo’).
- Setting clear priorities and aims for the organisation, team, or individual (when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority).
- Defining meaningful metrics which align to your goals (rather than measuring everything and counting the meaningless).
- Getting buy-in to performance management and creating a ‘psychologically safe’ performance environment.
I particularly liked the following quote, from Stacey’s blog about Psychologically Safe Performance Measurement. Does this happen in policing for example? Hold that thought…
“In the context of performance measurement, psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for the unacceptable results of any performance measure or KPI. And it begs the question: who would be carrying out the punishment or humiliation?” – Stacey Barr
Stacey Barr’s approach might easily be considered the sunlight, garlic, and crucifix repellent and alternative to the Count Orlock leadership styles out there!
Policing Can Win
“The entire process of how BCU commanders focus on and are held to account for crime and disorder in their local areas should be revolutionised. This should be based on a version of CompStat which has been successfully used in other forces.” – Policy Exchange
So, is there a good side to CompStat? A recent report by the Policy Exchange, ‘Policing Can Win’, has a foreword by Bill Bratton CBE, who founded the idea of CompStat in the NYPD, and Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, former Met Police Commissioner. The central thesis is that ‘policing can win’ against those who would commit crime and disorder in our communities. Among other things, it recommends a return to a CompStat style of police accountability:
- “The entire process of how BCU commanders focus on and are held to account for crime and disorder in their local areas should be revolutionised. This should be based on a version of CompStat which has been successfully used in other forces”.
- “To drive accountability to local people, BCU commanders should present to their communities every 100 days. This should cover what their teams have achieved during that period against the priorities set by local people.”
- “A new team of local police commanders, that are relentless in driving down crime and disorder, must be appointed.”
The Policy Exchange Report makes 49 recommendations across three areas, which “Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley will need to get to grips with these issues as rapidly as possible”:
- Leadership at every level
- Fighting crime and reconnecting with the public, and
- Police officer conduct and competence
The report’s recommendations certainly offer food for thought and options for consideration. Sir Mark published his early thoughts and intentions in a recent open letter:
“I am determined to get the Met culture right, with the support of others informing my plans. I have real concerns. I need to be sure I am talking to the right people, the challengers, those who care, who will call out injustice but also show things as they are. I believe in systemic change that demonstrates the Met can be better.”
The new Home Secretary Suella Braverman KC MP, has also written an open letter to police leaders for England and Wales. Not only is there the widely publicised expectation of reduced focus on ‘woke policing’ in favour of attendance at all burglaries, there’s also indications of new crime reduction targets:
“Reducing crime is a key Prime Ministerial commitment, and I expect the police, working with local partners, to cut homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime by 20%.”
This is to be achieved, in a Tommy Cooper style, ‘just like that’. A significant omission in her letter is any acknowledgment of the impact upon policing of severe Government cuts to police and other public services, which has unsurprisingly attracted criticism and comment, albeit officer numbers are now returning to pre-cuts levels.
What of the recommended appointment of a “whole new team of local police commanders, relentless in driving down crime and disorder”? Will their brief be to terrify and intimidate people, the Nosferatu approach more in keeping with Count Orlock? Or can we hope that they will raise the Stacey Barr, and move policing from the darkness and crisis into daylight and a brilliant, brighter future?
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
“A culture of fear and confusion.”
UK policing has experimented with ‘policing by targets’, often associated with an array of problems and challenges. The use of numerical targets in public services largely began in the 1980s, with greater use throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Targets were primarily seen as a way of measuring performance in order to improve efficiency, economy, and effectiveness.
During this period, technology advanced rapidly, enabling the capture and processing of ever larger and larger amounts of data for use as management information. We are now in an era of ‘Big Data’.
Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis was asked to review and report on The Use of Targets in Policing, “to identify ‘what works’ in terms of performance measurement and management in policing, to ensure that the public, and victims, receive the best possible service and remain at the heart of policing activity.” I encourage aspiring promotion candidates to read this 2015 review as one overview of a police approach to performance management. Essentially, it recognised the challenge forces face is:
“To develop a performance framework that not only provides a good understanding of the business in order to help effective decision-making, but also enables individuals to be appropriately held to account, whilst ensuring that they remain focused on doing the right thing for the public and for victims and in an environment where they are empowered to do so.”
Amongst the review’s findings were that targets resulted in dysfunctional behaviour. ‘Deliberate gaming’ is one of the most widely recognised and reported issues associated with targets. Numerical targets can create perverse incentives, which can lead to unintended behavioural consequences. Examples of dysfunctional behaviour in policing attributed to target chasing have been well publicised, for example by the whistleblower James Patrick, who exposed police gaming of performance metrics.
This includes reports of distorted/diluted crime recording or categorisation, in the desire to meet crime level targets. For example through not recording crimes in the first place, or mis-recording (e.g. ‘downgrading’ a burglary to a theft). Additional examples included ‘pressure’ on officers to “trawl the margins” for detections/outcomes and encouraging criminals to admit to other crimes they had not committed (called ‘taken into consideration’ or TICs).
Some other brutal findings from the report:
“Evidence highlighted the demoralising effect targets can have on staff. The potential misalignment between targets and organisational purpose, coupled with a disciplinary approach taken if targets are not met, can breed a culture of fear and confusion, lack of ownership over practices, and subsequent feelings of disengagement.”
DCC Anderson’s phrase “performance can be a little brutal, as it can be uncompromising” can be construed as a euphemism for the above paragraph. For example, “the demoralising effect targets can have on staff”, “a disciplinary approach taken if targets are not met”, and a “culture of fear and confusion”.
What leadership styles and behaviours are alluded to? What behaviours are desired from leaders to achieve performance targets? Which are successful? What is acceptable or unacceptable? Is it worth a moment to pause and to think here, to ensure a ‘fit’ between the organisation’s espoused values, versus ‘real values’ in the context of who gets the job done (and how!). Following on from that of course: Who gets promoted, who doesn’t, and why? A blog for another day perhaps…
What is not in doubt, is that the accuracy and integrity of police recorded crime and performance data is important for maintaining public trust in the police. Also to enable the police to ensure resources are deployed efficiently and effectively, both for the protection of the public and the disruption and apprehension of offenders.
“Every time a chief takes a decision to deploy resources, he makes sure there are enough detectives in certain disciplines to ensure there are enough specialist units to deal in certain types of crime. If the stats are wrong, it means resources aren’t deployed correctly. That represents a huge and significant public safety risk.” – James Patrick
It appears the writing is on the wall for a return to league tables for crime and other police performance measures…
The police.uk website has already begun reverting back to national league tables, with the publishing of 999 call performance data. I’ve summarised the entire dataset (November 2021 to August 2022) in the comparison chart below. Do you believe such comparisons are helpful, or do they risk driving the wrong behaviours?
As a member of the public, a PCC, or indeed a local media outlet, I would be asking questions of my force based on such information. Particularly for South Yorkshire Police, Humberside, Gloucestershire, and Durham, who all answer fewer than 50% of calls within 10 seconds, far below the national Contact Strategy target of 90%. Interestingly and despite this consistently poor 999 handling performance, Durham Police were rated as ‘Good’ on the theme of ‘Responding to the Public’ by HMICFRS in their latest PEEL assessment. Such scrutiny is just one of the pressures placed upon senior officers (which as a police leader, you’ll be expected to help alleviate!).
Pressures on Chief Officers have in recent years led to adversarial type ‘performance management regimes’ across UK forces, with unpleasant leadership behaviours more in keeping with those portrayed in The Wire. For example, with DCCs allegedly bullying, intimidating, and embarrassing area commanders and their senior officers. Cascading the pain downwards through the rank structure, of the performance pressures ‘biting’ at the top.
Was it worth it? A Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) report, ‘Caught red-handed: Why we can’t count on Police Recorded Crime statistics’, had a fair bit to say:
“Police recorded crime data should not be used as the basis for personal performance appraisal or for making decisions about remuneration or promotion. We regard such practice as a flawed leadership model, contrary to the policing Code of Ethics.”
“As part of its current crime data integrity audit, HMIC will examine the reasons for possible mis-recording of crime, including the effect of performance pressures.”
Due to these pressures, a myriad of pre-meetings before the main performance meetings, ensured that when the area commander stepped under the CompStat spotlight, he or she is well briefed, and able to hold their own in a brutal Spanish Inquisition.
‘Fair enough’ you might think; Until accountability is genuinely embedded in culture and the pressure shared across management, brutal interrogations and questioning will continue.
But was the bullying and intimidation really a thing? Surely not? Not in British Policing? Senior managers reduced to tears, as a result of brutal and uncompromising approaches to performance management?
Smacky Bum-Bum Time
“Not all forms of abuse leave bruises.” – Danielle Steele
I’ve certainly been out of the loop for a while now, but once witnessed an officer at Superintendent rank leaving a force performance meeting in tears and heard another saying they would be “walking out of the next meeting if the Dep’s behaviour continues”. Here’s how Mike Tyson might respond to such behaviour, paraphrasing his now infamous post regarding social media trolls:
“CompStat made y’all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it.”
Another Superintendent I knew was waiting to be ‘called in’ to account for the area’s ‘underperformance’. They conveyed how they couldn’t speak to me right away, as it was “smacky bum-bum time again”. These are personal anecdotes, yet peers and colleagues in other forces shared similar anecdotes suggesting that ‘brutal and uncompromising’ CompStat approaches were in place.
“Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.” – Centre for Creative Leadership
OK, maybe it’s not vomiting in the toilets prior to performance meetings as depicted in The Wire, but it is deeply unpleasant stuff, not really in keeping with the environment of psychological safety. The more ‘robust’ managers who performed well under such duress are certainly remembered, and were often promoted!
The Policy Exchange Report appears to be recommending the return of the CompStat type approach: “A new team of local police commanders, that are relentless in driving down crime and disorder, must be appointed.”
Sounds like a return to past horrors. Can it be avoided? Why is ‘Psychological Safety’ important? Amy Edmondson was the first to introduce the construct ‘Team Psychological Safety’. Here’s her TEDx talk:
Having watched this TEDx video, what are your thoughts? What leadership behaviours reflect psychological safety? What behaviours may signal psychological safety is lacking?
PEEL Performance Inspections & Humberside
“You can prepare for any inspection process.” – DCC Anderson
Police forces need performance management systems that help effective decision-making to improve performance, while also enabling individuals to be appropriately held to account. As part of this approach, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS, aka ‘HMIC’) conduct annual Inspections of police forces, producing assessments known as PEEL reports.
This stands for police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (the three areas of inspection). Forces are graded as follows: Inadequate, Requires Improvement, Good and Outstanding. HMIC pose a set of specific questions under the three areas as part of these performance reviews.
Coming back to DCC Anderson’s ‘fireside chat’, he described how Humberside police was previously graded ‘inadequate’, and he alluded to the absolutely meticulous preparation the force committed to for the recent HMIC inspection process. As part of this, a lead officer was appointed for each of 12 specific questions the force is required to respond to.
Progress against every question is delivered via a presentation by individual leads to ACCs in a scrutiny panel format. DCC Anderson then meets with the ACCs to review accountability and oversight of continuous improvement.
This process was “like a horror movie at the beginning” DCC Anderson said, but he described how it ultimately led to a deeper level of understanding around their performance. The force emerged with a “library covering 5 years”, summarising what has been done and ongoing activity. This meticulous asset provides a means to revisit all the HMIC questions (past and present), and it is used to understand the “evolution of performance”. They now have a consistent set of questions to focus upon and produce a force response, with presentations aligned against each of them.
I was interested to listen to the broad insights DCC Anderson shared. He spoke about the term ‘performance’ meaning different things to people. In policing terms, it meant how you are accountable. I liked his take on performance, being “about people”. The violent robbery of people, burglary of people’s homes, preventing child abuse and domestic abuse.
Other comments included:
- “Policing is complex but not sophisticated. Performance is ‘what we do’.”
- “For performance to work, it has to be detailed and at every level.”
- “You have to pick measures and be meticulous about them.”
Consequently, there is a clear expectation his ACCs know the detail of crimes and can get down into the weeds. At the frontline, “cops need to know where to be, and what to do”. There is an expectation and requirement that Sergeants and Inspectors know the crime picture and details in their area to “granular level”. In this way there is a collective approach to and understanding of priorities and actions required for continuous improvement.
DCC Anderson stated that “performance starts in the control room.” This was where the focus of successfully turning the force around started. From here, clarity can be gained by asking questions to develop and record a detailed picture and understanding around performance, for example:
- “What is our call abandonment rate?” DCC Anderson shared his view that “above 5%, you have a problem”.
- Do managers have a detailed daily picture? He believed Humberside was at 0.5% abandonment the previous day.
- How many crimes each day? “I would expect my ACCs to understand the detail including, how many staff on duty? Where are they? What are they doing?”
In summary, I personally found listening to DCC Anderson’s insights on Humberside Police’s ‘turnaround’ interesting, how the force prepared for PEEL inspections and how focused interrogation at all levels ‘aids accountability’. It clearly produced insights into strategic and tactical performance issues and how managing efforts to continuously improve can be uncompromising.
Four Ways to Improve Performance & Final Thoughts…
So, what is at the heart of performance management? In simple terms, it’s about effectiveness and results, two sides of the same coin. Ultimately, it’s an unwavering personal, professional and organisational accountability for effective and efficient use of public money and policing resources, to underpin public trust and confidence.
With that in mind, I encourage officers aiming to secure formal leadership roles as Sergeants and in the Inspecting ranks, to share their suggestions about what the reasons might be for individual or team performance failure. No cop deliberately aims at poor performance, so ‘holding that space’ allows individuals to reflect as part of a supportive conversation around performance management. It helps raise awareness around a more considered approach.
Here’s the four key reasons for performance failure to help spark your ideas:
- Motivation/Culture: An individual knows how to perform, but does so incorrectly.
- Knowledge/Skills: The individual does not know how to perform the process correctly, due to lack of skills, abilities or knowledge.
- Process: The problem is not individual related, but is caused by working conditions, improper procedures, etc.
- Resources: Lack of resources or technology.
I’ll leave you with some final thoughts: Has CompStat been lurking in the shadows, undead and waiting? Will the Home Office resurrect a new Symphony of Horror aka – Ye Olde culture of fear and confusion? More importantly, how can policing become better, and how will you as a leader, manager, and supervisor make that happen?
Whether aspiring to the next rank, preparing for a promotion board, or generally seeking to develop your competence as a leader, you have a ‘stake’ in the future.
‘Fang you’ (sorry!) for reading to here, I hope you found this helpful and insightful food for thought towards your leadership CPD. I wish you the very best with your aspirations.
Kind Regards, Steve
Want to go further right now? Hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, and/or my Police Promotion Masterclass. You can also contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast.