Opportunities for Action in Organization. If Cops Can Change, So Can Corporations

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1 CopsChange 2/17/06 1:50 PM Page 1 Opportunities for Action in Organization If Cops Can Change, So Can Corporations

2 If Cops Can Change, So Can Corporations The organization operated in a fast-paced environment but was not keeping up. While competitors had emerged to exploit the most profitable market opportunities, the organization had remained siloed and only slowly shifted resources to areas of need or opportunity. Key decision makers talked infrequently to one another. A series of high-profile losses finally persuaded the organization that it needed to become more collaborative, dynamic, and strategically focused. There is nothing surprising about this scenario except for the identity of the organization and its adversaries, and the nature of its market challenges. The organization is the Victoria Police, the primary law-enforcement agency in Melbourne and the surrounding area in the State of Victoria, Australia. Organized-crime networks are the agency s competitors, and a rash of high-profile murders was what prompted it to change its ways. In 2003 and 2004, Melbourne experienced a series of gangland killings as organized-crime groups battled on the streets in scenes reminiscent of The Godfather and Scarface. These groups were far more sophisticated and fluid than their predecessors in their approach to their work, shifting their focus along the full range of criminal activities as new risks and opportunities appeared. The police agency s customers, the taxpayers, demanded action. The agency is now implementing an ambitious change program affecting everything from organization structure to detective training that is designed to give the police the flexibility they need to meet the new criminal threat. All major stakeholders, including the powerful police union, helped shape the initiative.

3 Although the effort is ongoing, it is not too early to point out a key conclusion: If an organization as steeped in tradition and hierarchy as the Victoria Police can move to a more fluid model, then it should be possible for organizations in the private sector to do the same. Three Lessons for Corporations Organizational challenges are not unique to an industry or to the private sector, for that matter. Operating in rapidly evolving competitive landscapes, many government entities like the Victoria Police have the same goals as corporations. They, too, are searching for innovative ways to thrive in an increasingly informed, sophisticated, and demanding world. At least three lessons for private businesses emerge from the change program now in place at the Victoria Police: People inside an organization often communicate differently from how an organization chart suggests they communicate and differently from how they should communicate in order to be effective. Understanding the actual communication flow and networking relationships is invaluable. Designing a new model for the organization will require many employees to work in new ways and develop new skills. It is vital to engage employees in the initiative and to give them the skills they need in order to succeed. New organization designs often involve novel ways of making decisions. These new decision rights need to be baked into the revised organization design and communicated so that people understand the changes in how they will be doing business.

4 Fighting Crime, Fixing Corporations In 2003 the crime department of the Victoria Police assembled a task force to address the crime spree in Melbourne. The police had plenty of intelligence about the organized-crime networks, but it took the task force many months to get a handle on the groups because the information was buried in different parts of the organization: within specialized squads and local investigative units, and with intelligence analysts. The criminals, of course, were not confined by these organizational boundaries and, in fact, actively exploited them by committing many types of crime at the same time. In many ways, the Victoria Police had been set up like a typical corporation. Banks, for example, often organize around product lines credit cards, home equity loans, and the like. At the same time, they have a decentralized branch system to handle routine transactions. At the Victoria Police, one of five centralized divisions within the crime department organized crime, violent crime, serious crime, major drug, and major fraud would handle the critical products of police work. Within each division, squads specialized even further: for instance, there was a homicide squad within the violent crime division. The investigation of lesser crimes, like burglary, would be assigned to detectives who were not part of the crime department but were instead in a branch system deployed throughout the agency s five geographic regions. The structure enabled the detectives within the centralized divisions to develop deep expertise and strong teamwork. But it prevented the agency from dealing with immediate or emerging threats that fell outside a division s or squad s charter or cut across one or more boundaries. It allowed criminal networks to retreat from activities in which law enforcement

5 agencies were making inroads. It also allowed them to move quickly to exploit new markets, sometimes courtesy of new technology, which explains the rise in identity theft, for example. Criminals have gotten smarter, and they also work differently now, a senior Victoria Police official told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Not so long ago, crooks tended to work more within particular crime types, so an armed robber tended to be an armed robber. But now increasingly we see they re an armed robber, they re a drug dealer, they re a fraudster, they re into identity theft, so they work across the spectrum of the specialization that we have, and that throws up challenges to us in terms of how we respond. Corporations face similar challenges. When they organize around functions or products, they can t always serve customers most efficiently or effectively. For that reason, banks, for example, have been moving away from pure product-based organization models that require the customer to deal with different departments when applying for a mortgage, personal loan, or credit card. Using Network Analysis To understand its organizational shortfalls, the Victoria Police employed focus groups and conducted interviews and surveys. Those tools uncovered several weaknesses common to corporations: insufficient information sharing, difficulties allocating resources, and ambiguous career paths. The police also used a newer tool, network analysis, that graphically conveys communication patterns within an organization. At the Victoria Police, it showed that communication within the crime department was less than ideal. Inves-

6 tigators tended not to talk to their peers in other areas as much as they needed to. In particular, the squads dealing with homicide, fraud, and drugs did not communicate often enough, although the organized-crime networks focused on all three areas. On the basis of this work, the police force developed a new organization model. One key element is that the detectives in the regions will work increasingly with the crime department in investigating major crime. Sometimes the regional detectives will take the lead, investigating major crimes that the department had previously handled and putting the department s detectives in a consulting role. In other cases, the department will retain the lead, but with support from the regional detectives. This model emphasizes case and resource planning, so that investigations are ramped up and ramped down as required. To address the fluid nature of today s crimes, the model eliminates the current divisional structure in favor of a more flexible arrangement built around squads and so-called tasked work groups. The work groups will form and re-form more quickly than squads to accommodate shifts in criminal activity. All of the department s investigators will have a home in a squad or a work group. Although they will still develop deep expertise, they will also be trained in general investigative techniques across a range of crimes. When a crime is reported, it will be assigned to a squad, work group, or region. Overall, the model resembles the one used in professional services organizations, where individuals and assignments shift to meet client needs. These are far-reaching changes for a command-andcontrol organization such as a police force. Typically, officers are accustomed to working within squads and reporting to a single commander. In the new environ-

7 ment, they will be part of flexible teams and will need to communicate with peers across organizational boundaries. Likewise, the authority to make decisions will shift depending on the nature of the crime and the phase of the investigation. These dramatic changes will affect supervisors and supervised alike. As part of the implementation, the police force is working to improve communication and other interpersonal and coaching skills. It is clarifying the new nature of decision rights who has them, when, and for how long. The force is also introducing an enhanced development program for detectives. The program includes upward feedback, a feature that command-and-control organizations have not historically embraced, and individual coaching for middle management detective inspectors and senior sergeants. The new model is still in the early stages of implementation. But one indicator of its success is the broad buy-in from those who will have to change the most: the officers. As one police-union official put it, This has been a best-practice change process. * * * In the taxonomy of organizations, police forces have traditionally been among the most structured, hierarchical, and inwardly focused. Commands flow from the top along a tight chain of authority. Officers rise through the ranks in an orderly progression. Lateral hiring occurs infrequently. Hardly an ideal setting for major change to take hold. Recognizing these difficulties, the Victoria Police tried to learn as much as possible from corporate initiatives. Corporations likewise can learn a few things from the cops:

8 Understand how work and communication actually occur inside your organization Engage the work force in the development of any new organization design, and give people the skills to implement that design Make sure that everyone understands how decision making will change, including how decision rights will be apportioned If cops can change, so can corporations. Larry Kamener Andrew Dyer Julie Caldecott Kate Cotter Fiona McIntosh Larry Kamener is a vice president and director in the Melbourne office of The Boston Consulting Group. Andrew Dyer is a vice president and director in the firm s Sydney office. Julie Caldecott is a vice president and director, Kate Cotter a manager, and Fiona McIntosh a project leader in BCG s Melbourne office. You may contact the authors by at: To receive future publications in electronic form about this topic or others, please visit our subscription Web site at The Boston Consulting Group, Inc All rights reserved.

9 Amsterdam Athens Atlanta Auckland Bangkok Barcelona Beijing Berlin Boston Brussels Budapest Buenos Aires Chicago Cologne Copenhagen Dallas Detroit Düsseldorf Frankfurt Hamburg Helsinki Hong Kong Houston Jakarta Kuala Lumpur Lisbon London Los Angeles Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Miami Milan Monterrey Moscow Mumbai Munich Nagoya New Delhi New York Oslo Paris Prague Rome San Francisco Santiago São Paulo Seoul Shanghai Singapore Stockholm Stuttgart Sydney Taipei Tokyo Toronto Vienna Warsaw Washington Zürich BCG 2/06

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