Saturday, 28 June 2014

If not engagement then what?

Yesterday was also good day: I spent more time at the Policing Social Citizens conference (see previous post below) in Manchester in the company of an awesome mix of great people. We were told that just before John Grieve left, he had told one of the organisers that there was more intelligence and insight in the room than at a typical ACPO conference! A most charming man and his presentation was certainly one of the highlights of yesterday.

Challenged by Royston Martis (via twitter) to come up with a better word than 'engagement', I convened a workshop entitled "If we are not going to use the word engagement, what should we use and do?" This is a report of that workshop, ably helped by Sue Ritchie who kept flipchart notes. As you might expect, the conversation ranged quite widely!

I will begin with one police officer's story who said he was once walking down the road on his patch and one his (dare we call him) 'customers' came up to him and said, with a wry grin "Are you engaging with me or reassuring me today?" Now we all know how the great unwashed British public have this irritating habit of raising an eyebrow (and sometimes more) to our carefully contrived words / concepts of the moment. And this doesn't necessarily negate the value of some words. However in this particular instance, I think we may have to listen and reframe...

So what else was raised in the meeting. Here is in a fairly random order are some reflections on the discussion and points raised (with thanks to all who came along):
  • Is it essentially about a model where the police service is the vehicle, the public are in the driving seat and the gears that connect the driver to the engine and wheels is where the 'engagement' happens. In other words, are we really talking about is the public not only participating in but leading on the shape and direction of the public services?
  • So the public are anything but passive customers / consumers of public services, they are and should be the drivers.
  • But if we talking about 'community engagement', which community are we talking about. Or more correctly: which communities... 
  • And moreover, do all these communities want to 'engage'..? Is the role of the public services to pester the public for their judgments & opinions?
  • Perhaps a greater focus on the future and the outcomes that the public want would be a better place to start. 
  • Can an organisation which is poor at 'engaging' its own staff and listening to them ever really properly engage with the public?
  • Is engagement really just about listening and having good conversations... and then using the ideas / information / hopes / ambitions gleaned in shaping the direction of policing really all that it is about?
  • How come we even have to talk about engagement? Just how did we get to a point where the police service (like other services) is not delivering policing in ways that the public need and want?
  • Is what is being done at the moment working? If not (as we suspect so), what creative alternatives do we need use instead?
  • Why do I feel more connected to my postman than to almost any other public (?) service? Perhaps because I feel he knows me... 
  • What are the barriers that get in the way to shaping and delivering public services that match what all communities need?
There was more of course. I have also uploaded a pdf file of the flipcharts produced by Sue. You can access them here. And if anyone wants to add their recollections and reflections, please do so below. Thanks.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Getting social media...

Today was a good day: I have spent the time at the Policing Social Citizens conference in Manchester in the company of some old social media pals and some new ones. If you touch base with the hashtag: #psc14 you will get a feel for who is here and what we have been talking about. As always with events like this - a rich mix of fascinating people having even richer conversations!

As heralded, I ran one of the sessions today on: "How do you get people (involved in policing etc), who don't get social media, to get it?" (And I added on the day... "who need to get it")

We had a wide ranging discussion with me acting as 'Faciliateur provocateur'... as it were. Here are some notes and reflections from the workshop:
  • The use (or not) of social media has to be about personal choice (although I later countered: would you employ someone who refused to use a telephone?)
  • But I think we agreed, as the social demographics show, this is about a generational shift which will probably come along in time.
  • The key challenge question proposed was "what do you need to know about social media in order to be effective?" A question worth pondering on.
  • This led onto a discussion of how the police interacted with the public during 7/7 (apparently while the police were still issuing press statements about a 'power surge' someone had already uploaded a wikipedia page on the 'London bombings' with 30 minutes...) the 2011 riots and the Clutha helicopter crash. In simple terms, the importance of social media in such crises is becoming ever greater.
  • We concluded that whilst some managers may well choose not to engage actively in social media, it is probably critical that they at least acknowledge their role in creating the milieu in which social media is deployed effectively.
  • The conversation then diverted into a wider analysis of how managing the use of social media is just another example of how managers need to lead the future. This branched into the value of scenario planning and organisations becoming more 'intelligent' as defined in Piagetian terms as 'knowing what to do when you don't know what to do'.
  • In other words, as was pointed out, strategic leaders have a 'duty to understand' all manner of things and social media is emphatically on that list. (Comparisons were made between police forces who were very active on social media during the August 2011 riots and those which struggled. Unproven perhaps but there is some anecdotal data to suggest that social media helped 'keep the lid on' in many places while its lack of deliberate use in other places, didn't.)
  • Emma Daniel presented a model which argued that there are five main types of users on social media: creators, campaigners, connectors, curators and lurkers. Each group has a positive role to play online (which often connects to their work in the real world too) Each group has a part in triangulating the social media world and making it a navigable and accessible space.
  • And (in what as I say was a wide ranging conversation) we touched the role of social media as a social weather: a way of sensing how the world is & predicting how it might change (social media meteorology, as it were). Research in this area is just beginning but perhaps we can look forward to a time when news bulletins will end not only the FTSE index rises and falls but maybe also an indicator of community well being... (drawn from social media)?
A useful and stimulating debate. I look forward to more tomorrow... Please watch this space!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

New bright stars

The young actors in The Fault in Our Stars lead this luminous & brilliant movie: authentically, passionately and carefully. This is a film that could so easily have descended into cloying schmultz. But instead it ascends to the stars: offering a simple, tragic but ultimately hopeful love story (and Love Story it definitely isn't!)

If I had to criticise this film, I would say that the acting by the older actors is bit lack lustre but perhaps that was deliberate by the director: allowing the stage to be wholesomely filled by the two main characters? The sound track is engineered to perfection (indeed I have just bought it). I loved how this film connects the themes of life, death and infinity. Go see it!

There are many leadership themes in this film. The one I will pick to focus upon is the importance and value of secrecy. In this current transparent age where we expect to have all parts of our lives eviscerated on social media, the idea of positive secrecy might seem anachronistic. Certainly the suggestion that leaders should keep secrets is one that I suspect many would recoil from. Surely a good leader needs to be honest and up front with everyone around her/him?

Well yes... and no. Of course good leaders should not lie but perhaps sometimes the whole truth is best left for a while? In the film, various characters keep secrets for very positive reasons, although they are eventually revealed. It is a very hard judgement to make: what secrets to keep and when to tell the whole truth? This, of course, is the stuff of leadership ethics. Sometimes leaders need to keep secrets (and I do not mean confidences in this discussion), sometimes for a very long time.

What secrets are you holding? How sure are you that the ethical cost/benefits sum of keeping each one outweigh the sum of uncovering?


This is the thirty fifth of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Preventing domestic homicide: results of my research

These are the results of my inquiries into domestic homicide.

You can read how this piece of research began here and later here. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to carry out such research is decidedly clunky and so please consider this when reviewing the data below. Moreover, in hindsight, my third question could have been better phrased. After responses from some of the FoIA officers, it morphed into whether the perpetrators had been discussed on the MARAC system and/or had a noted DASH assessment. Also, I probably could have been clearer about whether the data was to include perpetrators who had been arrested but were not yet convicted within the time period specified.

Even with these caveats, I believe the data points towards some stark conclusions (see below)
  • I wrote to 45 police services, including Police Scotland, PSNI and the City of London Police. All replied to me but 3 are yet to send me any definitive response saying that they are still working on this.
  • Of the remaining 42, all but 2 answered Q1. (Those two forces claimed exemption, on the basis of cost, from replying to any of the questions. One of these two forces was the Metropolitan Police Service)
  • Of the remaining 40, 36 were able to give answers to Q2. The other 3 claimed FoIA exemption. 
  • Of these 36, 25 were able to give answers to Q3. The other 11 forces explained they could not access such information easily without a great deal more effort, simply claimed FoIA exemption for this question or gave another reason.
  • In the last five years (noting the forces that did not respond), the total number of domestic homicides dealt with by UK police forces over the last five years is 395
  • 161 of the people committing these crimes had some sort of criminal record. Or to put it another way, 234 of the people convicted of these murders did not have a previous criminal record. (That is well over half.)
  • Whilst noting the exemptions invoked by many of the police forces replying, in only 17 of 395 cases were the perpetrators on any kind of watch list (MARAC discussion / DASH assessment). 
There are some details to the responses which I do not intend to blog about here but I am happy to answer any questions sent to me. I have not named any of the responders / non responders as I do not think that is relevant. (My one exception is naming the Met as one of the forces who were not able to provide me with any data. Since the Met is the biggest police service, I felt I had to note the absence of its figures.)

So what conclusions to draw?
  • It would appear that many of the perpetrators of domestic homicide are simply not on the police ‘radar’ at all since a minority have prior convictions. An extremely small number are on any kind of watch list. 
  • This suggests to me that targeted police enforcement action to prevent domestic homicide happening can only very limited. 
  • I am also left wondering (and this would definitely need more research) whether the people who commit murder in domestic circumstances are in a different criminological category to those who come to the attention of the police by dint of loud domestic arguments or other forms of violence (short of murder). 
  • This research also raises questions about the quality of the police & partner DV prevention systems: just how effective are those systems at spotting possible victims/perpetrators? I know there are issues of confidentiality and the need to keep secret certain police methods for tackling crime, but I was surprised how many police forces felt unable to give me any data in response to Q3. Is that data not readily available?
  • And finally, this comes back to just how can domestic homicides be prevented if police action is limited because many perpetrators appear to escalate to murder from an ‘unknown’ status beforehand. It seems to me that educating young people (especially young women but not only) in the early warning signs is critical. I am left wondering how many of these domestic homicides could have been prevented if the victims has spotted such early warning signs and spoke to the police or other agencies earlier…?
As you will have gathered, I am no expert on the causes of domestic violence & homicide and the actions needed to prevent such violence & murder. I am merely a very concerned observer. Also this research is necessarily limited.

Nonetheless, I sincerely hope that out there are people with the clout, nous and wit to use this small piece of research in helping to shape action that results in far fewer women and men suffering at the hands of existing or ex partners.

What conclusions, reflections, thoughts does this research leave you with?

Monday, 16 June 2014

The heart of a chief, the soul of a dragon

Dragons combine fire, fearlessness and flight: what could be more magical? Ever since I saw How to Train your Dragon, I have been waiting for sequel. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is great sequel! The story twists and turns like Toothless in flight. (Although I am disappointed that one of the films big reveals was added to the trailer, this did not detract greatly from my enjoyment of the film.)

I won't spoil the story at all except to say: this is film about heroism, reconciliation, peace and friendship... really about how anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Of course, it is a fantasy. But it is fantasy with a great heart and lots of fun. The movie will delight you, (if you let it).

The young hero of the story dares to different: Hiccup is not the archetypal viking leader. Much of the narrative tension comes from his 'otherness' and the acceptance or scorn with which others greet this. Hiccup remains content with his own style and feels no need to somehow try to be like his father (who is the archetypal viking leader). But of course, Hiccup admires and loves his father none the less. 

This acceptance of who you are and who others are lies at the centre of solid leadership. Leadership is not about changing who you are: it about bringing out who you are. Developing others is not about changing them but assisting them to bring out themselves. 

Heart and soul: who are you?


This is the thirty fourth of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tomorrow always comes

The Edge of Tomorrow is a sumptuous film. Purists might disagree, but this movie is to Groundhog Day what Zathura was to Jumanji. But please don't let this comparison put you off: the Edge of Tomorrow is a time travelling movie that works (and many don't). It has a strong narrative coherence which keeps you guessing until the end.

Performances by all the actors, major and minor, are well executed which suggests excellent direction, good casting and to tight editing. The special effects are seamless, naturally. The hand held camera style in the battle scenes disorientates and frustrates me: I end up longing for a long shot. For SciFi addicts like me, this is a must see movie!

All leaders are constantly challenged to decide what action will lead to the best possible result. Most leaders do not have the luxury afforded to Tom Cruise or Bill Murray to test out decisions again and again until the right one is found. (Although both films ultimately break the rule. I won't say how Tom's character does it for obvious reasons. But Bill's character, in the end, gives up trying and Zen affords him and us the satisfactory conclusion to Groundhog Day...)

Although: do leaders, in fact, have that luxury? There is a whole array of methods in manufacturing that are known as the 'Design of Experiments' and Genichi Taguchi was one of its well known doyens. The essence is simple: if you want to improve what you do - vary the method systematically, and apply statistics to work out which changes help and which do not.

When was the last time you carried out a controlled experiment at work?


This is the thirty third of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Thursday, 12 June 2014


So I went to see 22 Jump Street. My experience with big screen American comedy is not brilliant (although small screen American humour I love such as the The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family). But I checked out a review and the film was referred to as a guilty pleasure, so I thought I would give it a whirl. Surprisingly the cinema was full and possibly with more women than men... Bromance buddy movie it maybe but its appeal clearly bridges the gender divide.

And it is funny and well acted. There are some truly laugh out loud moments with some narrative twists that are most enjoyable. It does all go past in a bit of blur but it is a happy and fuzzy blur. And stay to the end, there is a good dollop of self referential humour in the closing credits!

The big leadership message of the film for me was "Don't take yourself too seriously". Pomposity, arrogance, or complete certainty that your way is the only way does not make a good leader. Humour is an essential ingredient in leadership. And if you cannot laugh at yourself or shake off embarrassment, then you have no humour.

And obviously I am not talking about the ability to tell jokes although if you have that timing, it helps. (But take care! Timing for me includes knowing what joke to tell when to whom... and that can go badly wrong!) But the sort of humour I am referring to mainly is the light dance of a well crafted quip that can make other people smile (at least). Can you learn and develop this skill? Yes I think so. But it takes a high degree of self awareness to do so.

How good are you are the well aimed quip?


This is the thirty second of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.