Unreflective Speed of Action...Do You Think Its Time Policing Reflects on the Tactical Influence of Time?

I read a great post Flowing through time: the need for a certain slowness by Sonja Blignaut, In the piece Sonja focus is on business and their organizational cultures and how our preoccupation with speed is creating toxic environments in the workplace but with little reflection you can see the same influences she discusses in products and services to clients crossover into the crisis responses and service police provide to their communities. Anyhow it got me to thinking which usually leads to me writing, hopefully something we cops can find of value.

"As strategic agility is becoming the goal for most organizations, and Agile practices or New Ways of Working (NWOW) are spilling into the rest of our organizations, questioning this pre-occupation with speed becomes even more critical. In one organization I work with, the need for speed is driving very dysfunctional behaviors. Management has mandated that special teams need to deliver high-value products every 12 weeks. In a culture where failure is not an option and managers rule by fear, team members cannot raise concerns about unrealistic expectations and timelines. So they send in “the cannon fodder”, contractors who are expendable. This organization has an extremely high churn in contractors, and many refuse to work their anymore. This need for speed has made an already dysfunctional culture, toxic." ~ Sonja Blignaut

As I read this post, all I could think of was policing cultures and how the striving for numbers, to include response times and time on calls to clearing the call, to justify police efficiancy and effectiveness and hell even our existence. Despite the research on the effectiveness of this philosophy "numbers driven policing" we continue put much weight on the numbers. How many arrests? How many tickets? How many reports? How many investigations? What was our response time? How long was the officer(s) on the call? These are just a few of the factors we measure by numbers. It leads to and in policing its all too present the hurry up and get there and get back on patrol mindset we in policing claim we are striving to get out of. De-escalation being the current buzzword in policing you would think policing would be focused learning the tactical tenants of time or speed and tempo and how they influence our ability to reshape the conditions. Success depends in large part on the ability to adapt to a constantly changing situation.

Time is always a factor in police tactical operations and disaster responses and imposes prioritization requirements, especially when the time available and the time required may be irreconcilable.

In a social media (FB) conversation just after sharing this great piece by Sonja I had dialog with friend and fellow teacher of cops Thom Dworak out of the Chicago area. Thom specializes in developing cops and their organizations, He has developed "The Adaptive FTO" program and has been actively involved in teaching cops for decades, not to forget mentioned his decades of experience as a cop himself:

Thom: Good read about what our in-class decision-making discussions frame around urgency.

ME: I do the same Thom. It’s an important area in tactics that rarely gets discussed or practiced! And it goes way beyond HURRY UP AND GET THERE!!! Which sadly seems to be the most prevalent reaction we see in our profession. With few exceptions!!!

Thom: Not only hurry up and get there, but hurry up and get it over with. Too much bean counting on how many calls an officer handles per shift. While we apply metrics for report writing and other linear issues, complexity of human interaction is difficult to put a metric on.

When Col. John Boyd states "Don't just be a reactor. Be a shaper too." This is so important to policing and speaks to our lack of considering sense-making ability and being able to size up situations so we understand the type of problem we are facing, adapt and develop effective courses of action that exploit an adversaries ability to make sense of what we are doing. All too often police just do what they were told or trained to do. They react, with all too often the only thought process is hurry up and get there and get out. We do this with no understanding as to why we are doing it other than the fact that they were told or taught it. Being a shaper means we must be able to actually size up situations, so sense-making must be developed. Once we understand what's going on when then work and experiment to solve the problem, adapting as necessary to shape and reshape the environment and our adversaries mind. These ideas work on people as Boyd points out:

Terrain doesn't fight wars, Machines don't fight wars. People do and they use their minds. We must learn to compress our own time while stretching out an adversaries time to distort his O-O-D-A Loops.

We must begin to look at policing problems in context. Situations matter. We have technical or simple problems and we have adaptive challenges or complex problems of all different shapes and sizes and unfolding at different speeds. The principle of speed refers to the rapidity and quickness of actions. It includes all functions and operations involved in a tactical operation but is especially critical in a conflict. But its not only influenced in the physical dimension which is all too often the case in policing. We must understand how to manipulate or influence time via the mental and moral dimensions.

The essence of conflict is a clash between two hostile, independent, and irreconcilable wills, each trying to impose its will on another. The very essence of conflict as a clash between opposed wills creates friction. It is critical to keep in mind that the adversary is not an inanimate object but an independent and animate force. The adversary seeks to resist our will and impose his own will on us. It is the dynamic interplay between his will and ours that makes conflict difficult and complex. In this environment, friction abounds. When Boyd speaks of getting inside an adversaries O-O-D-A Loop he is speaking of creating 'friction' in the moral, mental and physical categories that conflict and competition unfold in.

We must therefore try to get a better understanding of time and how to use and manipulate it to expand our adversaries OODA Loop while compressing ours during our strategic and tactical interactions. Sonja writes "while the efficient flow of value through our teams and organizations is necessary, the implied association of speed with efficiency has become problematic. We can be highly efficient and very fast, but if we never take time to slow down to reflect and learn, we will simply bring about our end faster." She goes on with a great example that should help cops get a better perspective on time and the importance of context, your adversary and space:

"At the inaugural Complexity in Human Systems symposium earlier this year in DC, Alicia Juarerro reminded us of the importance of time in complex systems. She highlighted the difference between Chronos (chronological or sequential) and Kairos (opportune) time. Chronological time is agnostic of context as it inexorably moves along. Kairos time, defined as right, critical, or opportune moments, is inherently linked to context. For each unique context, there will be unique Kairos moments. This begs the question: Are we missing critical Kairos moments as we seek to get more and more done, and speed up our flow through Chronos time?

How fast we flow through time then, should also be contextual, i.e. sometimes we do need to go fast, but sometimes we need “a certain slowness”.

Sonja borrows that phrase from Paul Cilliers, whose article, on the importance of a certain slowness, has long been a favorite of mine. I think it is useful to reflect on some of his writing here (in italics):

“In his novel Slowness, Milan Kundera (1996) uses the metaphor of somebody riding on a motorcycle as being constantly in the present. Speed and the demands of the machine reduce his horizon to something immediate. Someone walking, however, is moving at a pace that allows for a much wider horizon. The stroll unfolds in time in a way that opens up reflection about where we are coming from and where we are going to as we walk. This theme of both the past and the future being present in a meaningful experience of the present … the argument for a meaningful temporality — that is, something slower — will be made here from the perspective of the dynamics of complex systems. “

I know what many are thinking here we go, another guy overly worried about de-escalation he is putting cops in jeopardy. But to refute that claim frankly I am not even thinking about only de-escalation, nor am I solely thinking about escalation of events. Once again the complexity of adaptive challenges and emotionally charged incidents there are dichotomies, paradoxes, ying/yang, cheng/chi affects that occur in the ebb and flow of crisis situations police must understand and utilize to leverage opportunities. An opportunity is a brief interval in time in which circumstances are temporarily favorable. Opportunities are the maneuver objective when maneuvering in time. In tactical settings, opportunities tend to be elusive, sporadic and fleeting. Understanding time and how to influence it is a key factor in accomplishing this.

“It should be stated up front that there is no argument against an appropriate fastness. A stew should simmer slowly, but a good steak should be grilled intensely and briefly. The argument is against unreflective speed, speed at all cost, or, more precisely, against speed as a virtue in itself: against the alignment of “speed” with notions like efficiency, success, quality, and importance.” ~Paul Cilliers

Sun Tzu in The Art of War said “Mastering speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of a large enemy’s inability to keep up. Use a philosophy of avoiding difficult situations. Attack the area where he doesn’t expect you.” In handling adaptive challenges police face, the phrase "time criticality" is often discussed. In this discussion there is often a miss-conception that to put time on your side, you must force the issue or, force the subject into action and always advance your position by moving forward. Speed is the essence of conflict, but speed does not always mean moving fast physically. It means preparing so you are in a position of advantage, which gives you time, hence speed.

Sun Tzu's definition of speed is often misconstrued and shown through quick responses such as; doors being immediately kicked in upon arrival. You see knee jerk reactions to the report of a single gunshot and immediate entry made without knowing anymore than the fact that a gun went off. You see it in tactical responses and approaches to various calls for service where the possibility of danger exists. You also see it in responders traveling at high rates of speed across cities and towns or running as fast as they can into an office, in an effort to get to the scene quickly. No thoughts taking place, no observing, orienting, deciding and acting as to how you will approach, "just get there" is the apparent goal. The responders end up in the driveway or in a room without any critical thought to potential violence, being an outcome, of forcing the issue. Individual responders approach rapidly in circumstances where its clearly understood (or should be) the adversary has the advantage and are not actively engaged in deadly actions. Or worst case from my observations, respond in circumstances where not much thought at all has gone into who does or does not have the advantage, they just GO GET HIM!

This great post by Sonja Blignaut Flowing through time: the need for a certain slowness" Is crucial factor for police to improve their tactical effectiveness and safety.

If we fall into the trap of unreflective speed, we may end up being very efficient at delivering products that offer no value. Also, making speed a primary measure of performance can have unintended consequences. Take the idea of team velocity again: Strathern’s variation of Goodhart’s law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. When speed becomes our target, quality and learning suffers. ~Sonja Bligaut

Unreflective speed of action...do you think its time policing reflects on the tactical influence of time?

Stay Oriented!