Improve the Work…Develop the People

Transformation Model

Protecting and serving our community members are the reasons our departments exist. Continuously improving policing systems, from patrolling effectively, to problem solving, from capability development to leader development, allow our departments to provide better value to citizens in the form of better quality, more reliable, and better services. Precisely the things citizens will pay for, with their respect, trust and gratitude. In policing when it comes to winning at low cost while at the same time winning the hearts and minds of the people. How do we identify our true north (value driven purpose) and improve our work as we handle both technical and adaptive challenges of policing?

The two things we must do as leaders are: (1) get the work done (2) at the same time, develop people as problem solvers.

How do we do both?

Think about adaptive leadership systems as learning systems in which people learn by doing. But “learning by doing” means more than just doing. After all, people are on the street or in the office every day doing things so they must be learning, Right?  Of course not! Learning by doing means that well-thought-out opportunities for people to learn are built right into the work itself. As Don Vandergriff says; “Effective leaders apply analysis and synthesis as required by the situation, rather than applying templates to problem solving.” To create and nurture people who can analyze (investigate) and synthesize (connect the dots that form orientation) on the fly in real time while weighing the risks, it is important we take advantage of every opportunity to learn and develop our people.

The problems police departments are trying to solve change day to day; many are situational and require a situational approach. Situational approach does not mean ad hoc. There are some basic principles and frameworks that need to drive it.  The lean transformation model from the Toyota production system that’s been around for over 40 years and is designed for manufacturing and linear systems one might think at first glance. The transformation model actually considers both linear (technical) and non-linear (adaptive) challenges.  I want to adapt this transformation model to how we can transform our training methodologies to those that are helpful to continuous learning and improvement in law enforcement.

I am in the continuous process of reshaping my own department’s development programs and I recently started tinkering around with this transformation model as it applies to our training and development. It can be used to help tackle any problems or to focus your efforts towards programs of instructions you may need in the department’s efforts to continually improve. Remember this is an evolutionary process and requires constant attention and reshaping as our departments needs, change.

The Transformation Model

In order to maintain an organization's continuous improvement efforts and be effective leading transformation (change), leaders need to not only champion the deployment of tools to improve analysis and synthesis, but to look beyond the tools to the supporting organizational systems. Leaders need to create an environment for effective and wide-ranging problem-solving at all levels of the organization, and model the behaviors that support this open, continuously learning, problem-solving environment.

I watched a 10 minute video with John Shook of the Lean Enterprise Institute (I have attended their outstanding Managing to Learn course) explaining the model and its value in transforming organizations and immediately thought what a great tool for evolving police departments.

The model has five dimensions that are crucial to any transformation.  The model is built on a 1) a foundation, that’s forged on solid ground (history and experience). On the foundation we build two pillars 2) Improvement processes (how will we improve the work?) and 3) capabilities development (how will we develop the people)? Upon the two pillars we build a 4) roof, which represents our mission and takes a situational approach to problems because law enforcement handles situational problems.  To have a meaningful effect on our mission we must obviously ask a critical question, that being what problem we are trying to solve?

The roof also provides cover inside our organization to the people who must do the work and are crucial to our success. We need to develop the people in new ways that continue to improve their work all the time. Your leadership behaviors and management system must be conducive to one that engages people so that they are willing to use their experience and encourages thinking and ideas.

People, leadership and management make up the 5th) dimension and revolve around leadership behaviors and management systems and how they effect and inspire people to do the work.  Leadership behaviors and management systems must be based on a strong belief in core values that everyone knows and believes in. To solve technical problems and adaptive challenges we need to take value driven approach and develop a value driven purpose that helps us transform or adapt depending again on what type of problem it is we are trying to solve. This value driven approach combined with training and education system in place that breeds a high level of professionalism gives the frontline the ability to observe, orient, decide and act repeatedly throughout interaction while they apply analysis and synthesis as required by the situation, to reach the outcome they seek.

Mutual Trust the Catalyst to Affective Transformation

Training transformation is built on a foundation forged in the basic thinking, mindset and assumptions that underlie or drive the transformation you seek and make up the organizations culture. So your culture must be one that is focused heavily on mutual trust.  Does your organization have your best interest at heart? And, do you have your organizations best interest at heart? These two questions must be answered in the affirmative for an organization to thrive in rapidly changing situations. Mutual trust is a two way street so we must constantly challenge ourselves and our people to show respect for people in the organization as we seek to solve problems and debate how they are to be solved. Seeking continuous improvement, while working together to, solve problems through initiative, constantly exploring and listening to find better ways to continuously improve in all we do, we must have and open an robust dialog. This robust dialog in an organization that understands viewpoints are in the best interest of the organizations ability to solve a particular problem helps the organization design better processes and training methods to improve the capabilities of our people.


There is no doubt that police organizations make efforts to improve processes and capabilities through formal mechanisms of training but is this good enough or can we do better? I will leave you to answer that important question while you also think about what it means to have an identified mission, and vision built around core values and hence a value driven purpose that means something to everyone in the organization.  Would not, leadership, you know, the art of inspiring people to enthusiastically take action towards uncommon goals, be, more appreciative of the worth and value of clear understanding and comprehension needed to accomplish goals and, therefore expect the same of the people who do the work? Your police organization needs such an environment, a culture that will enable your people to execute rapid and fluid OODA Loops. To transform and improve the work you must develop your people. This method is just one way of pointing you in the direction of your value driven purpose, your organizations True North!

Stay Oriented!


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