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Radhika Panjwani is a freelance writer from Toronto.
Seven years ago, the Dutch National Police chose to begin radically transforming by embracing an agile framework favoured by start-ups and other progressive organizations.
The change movement Q is a bottom-up management approach where ideas from frontline staff that advance the force’s strategic goals quickly receive the nod to build and test a basic prototype. Based on user feedback, the application is tweaked and refined until it’s ready.
Decision-making in the new process is quick. And anyone, irrespective of rank or seniority, can pitch and lead an innovation project.
In the old bureaucratic system, it took on average 9.5 years for an idea to be implemented, explained Pim de Morree, co-founder of Corporate Rebels, a Netherland-based online management consulting firm that helped the Dutch Police improve Q’s organizational structure.
“Q is transformational,” Mr. de Morree said in a post. “It allows those in the frontline to be innovative changemakers. Previously, even though there was potential for innovation, many were hesitant because they assumed they would not be allowed to test ideas because of the rigid hierarchy.”
The over-arching principles of Q are radical transparency over internal politics, autonomy over hierarchy, personal leadership and fostering innovation.
Success of Q
Q-LABs are innovation teams within regional units connected to the Q network. Over the years, these enterprising nodes have successfully created several viable prototypes such as using artificial intelligence to determine which cold cases have promising evidence and can be solved; WeQan, a digital tool to facilitate collaboration within the police network and a cold case calendar, said Mr. de Morree.
Individual regional units that want to establish a Q-LAB are expected to invest their own resources, including time and money, he said. When Q was launched in 2016, it began within a single regional unit. Today all 11 units of the force are part of Q.
Police research in Canada
A Statistics Canada report, “Economics of Policing: Baseline for Police Research in Canada,” found Canadian police services have failed to invest in evidence-based research and as a result, the system is at a disadvantage.
The study reveals police research in Canada is not integrated or coordinated. Unlike Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., in Canada, there’s no central hub that provides easy access to existing research. One key finding was that funding available for research in Canada is mostly under-utilized.
“As such, much Canadian research is based on international studies, it’s estimated that we are 10-15 years behind those countries in terms of the research systems we have in place and the capacity to conduct that research. In short, the state of policing research is poor and, in its infancy,” noted a senior police leader in the report.
Can the Q find success in Canada?
After his retirement, Peter Sloly, former deputy chief of Toronto Police Service and ex-chief of Ottawa Police Service, experienced firsthand the inner workings of an agile organization at the consulting firm Deloitte Canada.
At Deloitte, he witnessed the fostering of innovation unencumbered by hierarchy and swiftness with which projects were scaled to generate revenue, but an agile and flat model may not be the right fit for Canadian police, he said.
Despite the obvious strength of a bottom-up management approach such as Q the model will not be successful in Canada as policing in Canada is a public sector undertaking with unionized members. And the culture’s rooted in centuries old tradition, said Mr. Sloly, who is now chief executive officer of Sloly Solutions Inc., an Ottawa firm providing strategic security and safety services.
He said some elements of Q have merit. For instance, the Dutch Police Force allows skilled individuals from non-law enforcement backgrounds to bypass the traditional — and lengthier route — to senior ranks. In Canada, the ascent to the top takes place in a linear trajectory over two or more decades.
“If you were to actually implement something that could potentially bring qualitatively new types of leadership into a very traditional, hierarchical and conservatively led organization, the likelihood of successfully adopting and implementing new ideas and innovation will increase exponentially,” said Mr. Sloly, “For instance, if you allowed 15-20 per cent of individuals with fresh ideas, skillsets and experience that are relevant in the market to come into executive positions through lateral direct entry, their collective ability will create a tipping point in the leadership in the organization.”
Success of the program will also hinge on having a progressive board and support from all levels of governments, he said.
Edmonton Police Service’s Q-like reforms
In Canada, the Edmonton Police Service has successfully implemented lateral entry into community policing. Fifty per cent of the EPS’ executive team is comprised of civilians from social, IT, data and other sectors having skills relevant to policing and the other half’s comprised of veteran police officers with deep understanding of operational issues. Together, they are transforming the force’s operating model, Mr. Sloly said.
Unlike the Dutch model, EPS’ top-down effect is impacting the force’s core services too. Case in point: EPS has partnered with the community by going upstream on prevention programs using an integrated human services model rather than balkanized enforcement model, Mr. Sloly said.
“The diversity, quality, knowledge and education that now exists in frontline policing [in Canada] is ripe for reforms,” Mr. Sloly said. “We’re actually stronger in our bottom ranks. So, if we could find a way to accelerate quality at the senior levels to support the already existing quality in the junior levels, we could see radical reforms.”
What I’m reading around the web
- This story in lifehacker.com tackles a results-driven system to help you get “meaning, momentum and mastery in all areas of your life.” It includes setting up three goals each for the year, quarter and monthly schedule and planning around all your goals, from the short- to long-term.
- In this TED Talk, management researcher and best-selling author Dr. David Burkus shows companies how to inspire teams. His solution? put your purpose at the core of their engagement efforts.
- If you have regrets about paths not taken or dreams pursued this piece in Psychology Today shows you how to not let regrets lead to emotional suffering.
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