Regular readers of the blog will recall our examination (here) of the Hillsborough Inquiry and the issues it raised about honesty, defensiveness and poor police leadership. So it is great to see serious efforts to address some of these issues.
In the report, there are some ideas that will appeal to those keen to learn from other’s experiences and manage their knowledge more effectively.
One encouraging point, on how the review was conducted, is revealed thus, “The review recognised the importance of capturing the lessons of leadership development from the widest range of sectors outside policing.” So far, so good – using lessons is almost always a good idea, and to seek them from ‘outsiders’ introduces new perspectives and guards against ‘group-think’, one of the dangers highlighted in Margaret Heffernan’s excellent book, ‘Wilful Blindness’, which I reviewed here.
Welcoming fresh inputs is further encouraged through the recommendation for “a structure where officers and staff can exit and re-enter the service, bringing with them their new skills and experience.”
The value of skills, experience and knowledge is recognised in further recommendations, such as:
· “Existing police leaders should influence and drive the required culture of change by demonstrating their own commitment to personal development….;
· Develop career opportunities which allow recognition and reward for advanced practitioners.
· Offering staff and officers reward and recognition for advanced skills and knowledge. We recommend that the Home Office should consider what amendments to pay and conditions are required to allow professional expertise to be appropriately recognised and rewarded.”Again, that’s all well and good but, without explicit encouragement and enforcement of knowledge-sharing and collaboration, there is a danger that these proposals will result merely in rewarding people for what they know, without further recognition for what they share.
Incentivising the accrual of knowledge without any balancing expectation that it be shared produces employees that are reluctant to help others, or will only do so when they can spare the time (i.e. rarely).
This is common across many organisations, where the unintended consequences of rewarding knowledge are disincentives to share, reluctance to be honest and open (especially about shortcomings) and expensive losses when those with the know-how depart, leaving the remainder struggling to fill that gap.
Far better for the recommendations to read thus (my edits in bold):
· “Existing police leaders should influence and drive the required culture of change by demonstrating their own commitment to personal development, openness and collaboration.”
· “Develop career opportunities which allow recognition and reward for advanced practitioners that gain new knowledge and actively seek to share it as they do so.”
· “Offering staff and officers reward and recognition for advanced skills and knowledge. We recommend that the Home Office should consider what amendments to pay and conditions are required to allow the accumulation and sharing of professional expertise to be appropriately recognised and rewarded.”Such recommendations, just by their wording, would send the signal that hard-won knowledge must be valued, shared and used by all. Once implemented, they would be an important part in wider efforts to create and nurture a true learning culture.
Further material on leadership, culture, knowledge-transfer and retention is available at the Knoco website.