Blogs from Police &   
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Police: A Tale of Two Kings

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

Stick Child bedtime storyAt bedtime, Stick Child’s Daddy often reads his son a story from his favourite story book, “Medieval Stories from Stick Kingdom with an Inevitable Systems Thinking Moral”. One recent story they particularly enjoyed was called “A Tale of Two Kings”, which went a bit like this…

Once upon a time, many years ago, the King of Stick Kingdom decided to commission artwork to decorate his palace, so he secured the services of the greatest artist in the land – Stick Artist. He asked Stick Artist to paint him the most wonderful painting she could imagine. Stick Artist was up for the challenge and immediately fetched out her canvas, easel, brushes and paints.

Stick Artist 1

But then…just as Stick Artist was about to begin her masterpiece, Stick King said, “Oh, can you make sure you put some rhinos in the picture? I like rhinos”. Stick Artist said, “No problem, Stick King”, and began to paint.

Then Stick King stopped her again and said, “Oh, by the way, I really like the colour purple, so would you make sure there’s lots of purple in the picture?” “Okay, Stick King”, said...

Continues,

Police: Stick Child and The Fraggles

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

Fraggle rock and Stick Child

Recently, Stick Child was watching the television channel ‘Stick Gold’, when he came across an episode of the 1980s children’s show, Fraggle Rock. If you’re about the same age as Stick Child’s Daddy, you may well remember it too.

Fraggle Rock was inhabited by Fraggles; colourful, furry little creatures, who spent most of their time playing games and exploring their environment. Their favourite food was radishes, and if they touched their heads together before they went to sleep they could share their dreams with each other.


Fraggle Rock was also inhabited by even smaller creatures called Doozers, who spent all of their time building constructions out of a radish-based substance, which the Fraggles liked to eat.

doozersThe Doozers actually wanted the Fraggles to eat their constructions so they could go on to build more. This was essentially the only interaction between Doozers and Fraggles; Doozers spent most of their time building, and Fraggles spent much of their time eating Doozer buildings. They thus form an odd sort of symbiosis.


Continues,

Police: Top of the Table

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

When the Chair of the House of Commons Education Committee asked Michael Gove (Secretary of State of Education at the time) about comparative performance measurement between schools, this happened:

Chair: If “good” requires pupil performance to exceed the national average, and if all schools must be good, how is this mathematically possible?

Michael Gove: By getting better all the time.

(Full transcript here)

Now, sniggers to one size, there’s a few important points here. The first is that I don’t disagree with striving to get better all the time; neither do I think performance shouldn’t be measured. I also believe it can be useful to understand apparent differences in comparative peer performance.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, it’s the way it’s so often done – league tables.

Here’s an example using police forces, although you could replace them with schools, hospitals or other institutions, if you like.

Stick Child top of the table 1

League tables are over-simplified, misleading, fundamentally illegitimate, charlatans of the performance world; they purport to convey...

Continues,

Police: It’s Criminal

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

Stick farmer

I’ve been meaning to get around to writing about the issue of using crime figures as an indicator of police performance for a while now. Aside from the risk of mis-recording crime due to target-driven performance management, I believe there is a fundamental argument against judging police performance by using crime figures. It boils down to this:

Crime rates are not the definer of effective police performance; they merely provide information about criminal activity.

What do I mean by this?

Well, we’ve been so used to judging police performance based on whether crime is higher or lower than some previous point in the past (binary comparisons), positions in league tables, or variance against arbitrary numerical targets, that it’s been easy to miss the obvious question about whether we’re measuring the right thing in the first place. Even when crime trends are shown in time series format (e.g. control charts), I’d argue that it’s still a case of measuring the wrong things (albeit in the...

Continues,

Police: Find The Treasure

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

“It’s just the starting point for asking questions”.

Binary comparison table

That’s what I often hear people say about this sort of thing. (Look at all the pretty colours).

Well, it’s not. And the questions are usually the wrong questions, asked of the wrong people, leading to the wrong answers about the wrong things, causing us to look in the wrong places for stuff that isn’t there, whilst missing the right things.

It’s a bit like this – let’s say Stick Child goes on a treasure hunt. He has the choice of three maps. Here’s the first one…

Stick Child map 1

This blank map is the equivalent of having no performance data at all.

The next map looks like this…

Stick Child map 2

This looks more like it doesn’t it? Well…no. Fortunately Stick Child is a bright little button and he knows the map was constructed by looking at last year’s map then guessing where the treasure is buried. This is pretty much the same as the binary comparison table.

Not wanting to waste his time digging in the wrong places, Stick Child opts for Map 3, which has been drawn using accurate information and presented in a format that will help...

Continues,

Police: The Real Thing

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

Have a look at these three handguns… (Glock 17s to be precise):


  • One is real.
  • One fires plastic balls.
  • One fires blanks.

Which is which though? Can you tell which is the real one?

Even upon handling them in real life, it would take someone who knows what they’re doing to establish which is which. But then imagine if you had any of the above pointed at you in a dark street. It’s practically impossible to make a snap judgment about which is real in the heat of the moment. I wouldn’t wish that decision on anybody.

That’s because all of these Glocks have the appearance of being the real thing. The same applies to performance management tools. Binary comparisons, league tables and numerical targets look and feel like the real thing, but they’re not. They’re the imitation firearms of the performance world.

Unlike the Glocks however, when someone points a binary comparison at you it’s unlikely that you need to react immediately. Look closer to see if it really is what it appears to be – a credible piece of performance information – and once you’ve...

Continues,

Police: Stick Child’s Kitchen Nightmares

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

One evening Stick Child was awake a bit later than usual and saw part of a programme about a TV chef who goes into failing restaurants and helps them get back on track. Being as Stick Child is only 9 years old, his Daddy quickly changed channels as the TV chef launched into a tirade consisting of language so colourful it would have made Stick Caligula blush.

Anyway, that night Stick Child had a dream that went a bit like this….

Stick Child chef 1

Stick Chef began to take a look around…

Stick child chef 2

He didn’t like what he saw.

And it got worse…

Stick child chef 3

A violent rage began to erupt from within his stick body…

Stick child chef 4

Stick Chef’s meltdown continued…

Stick child chef 5

Then he had a moment of calm…

Stick child chef 6

The other guy thought this sounded vaguely familiar, but listened anyway. Then things got even better…

Stick child chef 7

The dysfunctional practices were no more and Stick Chef’s work was done.

Stick child chef 8

Then Stick Child woke up and smiled.

Stick child chef 9


Police: Method in the Madness?

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

Deming was fond of saying, “By what method?”

In other words, if you want to see performance improvements you need to have an actual method for achieving them. This means understanding the system and improving system conditions to help the workers deliver excellent performance. As we saw in the previous blog, no amount of inspirational leadership (or sheer hard work) can achieve this if system conditions constrain the workforce.

Taking the example of response times for the emergency services, let’s see how this concept works. In my experience, people who drive vehicles with blue lights and sirens usually already want to get to emergencies quickly; I’ve never known police response drivers deliberately drive slowly to a burglary in progress. Having a workforce that’s naturally aligned to organisational purpose means there’s one less hurdle to overcome when seeking performance improvements.

Stick police car

Next, you have to understand which systems conditions affect response times. There will be some that you can influence (e.g. amount of...

Continues,

Police: Leadership is Not Enough

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

Much is made of the importance of leadership, and I don’t disagree. However, what’s often overlooked is the importance of system conditions. Deming talked about this when he pointed out most troubles and possibilities for improvement come from the system. Think about it like this…

Imagine yourself as the world’s most inspirational leader. Here you are (in stick person form), trying to carry out your task of standing these skittles upright.

Stick man skittles

Unfortunately, they keep tipping over. This is nothing to do with your leadership ability, but simply because the floor surface is slightly convex. No matter how hard you try, they tip over and you spend your time flitting between them, rebalancing them one-by-one as they fall. The uneven floor is a system problem folks – and Deming says management have the responsibility of addressing system problems. Leadership is not enough.

Stick man boat

Here’s another example. You’re the captain of a ship. Sadly, the ship they put you in charge of has big holes in the hull which keep letting in water. You spend all your time...

Continues,

Police: A Better Way

Written by RSS Poster inspguilfoyle

One day during the school holidays, Stick Child’s daddy took him to an outdoor adventure park, where people climb through the trees using various ropes, nets, rickety bridges, zip wires and other things. Stick Child’s daddy thought he’d be pretty good at it, as he’d been on similar obstacle courses when he was much younger…

Stick child better way 1

It soon became apparent, however, that he was a lot slower than his boy, moving with all the grace and finesse of a large land mammal, tangling himself up in his safety ropes and wobbling precariously as he crossed from one platform to the next. Also, the higher they went, the wobblier he became, hugging the tree trunks desperately and avoiding eye contact with the ground.

Stick child better way 2

Stick Child thought this was quite funny and was tempted to laugh at his daddy, who had been acting all big and tough when they were on the ground. Instead, he decided to help him, as he had learnt some good techniques for tackling these sorts of obstacles on a recent school trip.

At first, Stick Child’s daddy still thought he knew best (“I’ve been doing it this way...

Continues,

Latest Inspguilfoyle Stories

A Tale of Two Kings
Stick Child and The Fraggles
Top of the Table
It’s Criminal
Find The Treasure

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