As we come to the end of the seven improvement steps in my book, remember it is a “never-ending process.” If we are serious about improving things and getting better, the process needs to continue. Deming taught the continuous “Plan-Do-Check-Act” process. It can work for government and police as well. Here’s the last two steps of my seven-step process:
The sixth step: Evaluate what you do. “Police must be able to critically assess, or have assessed, the crucial tasks and functions they are expected to perform.
The seventh step: Sustain your efforts. “Police leaders must be able to maintain and continue improvements to their organizations.”
“My first efforts to evaluate how we were doing were rudimentary. I knew I had to have frequent and on-going contact with the Madison community I was hired to serve and protect. I should say its communities because no city is just a community by itself; a city today consists of many communities. But for the most part, I became the sounding board for the department. Listening was my first attempt to try and determine how we were doing in realizing our vision and staying on mission.”
If an organization, a collective effort of any kind, is to improve it must carry out the seven steps I have identified. But most important (and one that is constantly forgotten) it must work to sustain the progress. Often, having achieved an objective (even a long-sought vision), organizations falter, stumble, get complacent, and stop moving forward. For to stand in place in today’s world is to fall behind.
Organizations (even those who appear to have a monopoly on a service or product) must consciously work to sustain themselves in what they do. And sustainability is directly related to the other six steps I have outlined: envision, select, listen, train and lead, continuously improve, and evaluate.
“Police leaders must be able to maintain and continue improvements to their organizations… a leader should always be thinking ahead, scanning and listening. And this should be with the intent to sustain the good work and improvements that the organization has accomplished. It turned out that what I was developing almost unknowingly in Madison was something Peter Senge later came to identify in his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (Doubleday, 1990). When I first read Senge’s excellent definition of the learning organization, it made clear that what we were attempting to do was just that…”
This completes a short over-view of the seven improvement steps. I hope they can apply to your organization. If they do, those who work in these systems will find it is much easier to do a good job — and that’s what most everyone really wants — to be enabled (freed!) do a good job. At the same time, employers will find their workers are developing better products and providing better services to their customers. A decent, respectful, collaborative workplace is simply a better place to work and, for leaders, a better place in which to lead.
It may take us a long time to learn this, but, eventually, learn it we will.