Articles generate thought, thoughts provoke discussions, discussions catalyze improvement. This commentary highlights some points from the article, "Lessons on Leadership ~ Making the worst ship in the Navy the best ship" (Abrashoff, 2022) linked below.
Focus of this article
After reading Michael Abrashoff's "Turning the worst ship in the Navy into the best" I was inspired to convert some of the concepts into applicable information for law enforcement. One of the core courses through Critical Incident Review is the "Leadership Perspective on Force Analysis" Course. In that curriculum we address the successes and failures of leadership, having experienced them from a primary role in the adjudication process as certified experts nationally. In these cases, the concept of Role, Purpose, & Function (RPF) arises, especially as it applies to the decision-making process at the leadership level in hindsight.
To establish RPF, these questions need to be addressed; What is the purpose for the internal analysis and scrutiny? Is the RPF solely to discipline an officer for a decision made while in a critical incident? Or is it to identify the parameters of the decision made to recognize the likely focus in developing a better or safer working environment? It is part of the leadership role to create an environment that benefits the officers involved, the department, and the community, this should always be the focus!
However, policies are difficult to change! In my experience, the review and analysis of the event is the key to implementing change in policies, procedures, and best practices through training development and awareness of the performance issues that may be at play.
In the leadership perspective course, three areas of focus have been developed when reviewing and analyzing the data gathered through the investigative process. These are Replicate, Change, or Avoid (RCA). Those in a position of leadership or that are tasked as a decision maker must identify what in the incident needs to be replicated, changed, or avoided. Defining the needs related to RCA in the review and analysis process will outline the Role, Purpose, and Function (RPF) not only of the process, but of those responsible for making determinations about the pathway forward. Most departments end up creating an ineffective system of rules and policies that attempt to prepare for every contingency. This is a valid thought process; however, we all know it is not possible. The bigger issue is that once a policy is in place, it is hard to change. Even if the policies originally made sense, they become hard to change as the environment changes in law enforcement.
Defining the needs related to RCA in the review and analysis process will outline the Role, Purpose, and Function (RPF) not only of the process, but of those responsible for making determinations about the pathway forward. Most departments end up creating an ineffective system of rules and policies that attempt to prepare for every contingency. This is a valid thought process; however, we all know it is not possible. The bigger issue is that once a policy is in place, it is hard to change. Even if the policies originally made sense, they become hard to change as the environment changes in law enforcement.
When the need for change is identified and attempted, oftentimes the difficulties override the attempts to implement change. Because of this, the officers, supervisors, and leadership quickly become tenants of the policies. When you become a tenant of policy you lose ownership of the policy. In law enforcement, ownership of policies can dramatically increase the odds of success in the application of policy, practice, and protocols.
Those who examine and make determinations regarding an incident should focus on the task of seeing the incident through the lens of those involved. In processing the results of a review and analysis, especially considering the RCA component, it is important to "see the world through the eyes of others." (Abrashoff, 2022) An effective way to achieve this perspective is to nail down the investigative process, and gather a complete and objective data set for review and analysis. Only then can the world be seen through the lens of those that were involved. Only then can thoughts be given to changing behavior, replicating behavior, or avoidance of certain aspects in the environment that the officers were working in.
There is a lot to consider in the investigation, review, and analysis of a critical incident. As leaders and decision makers, it's paramount to understand the limitations of the involved, the evidence available in the incident, and the investigators collecting the data. All individuals playing a role in the process must identify biases, strengths and shortcomings in all aspects of the event to successfully navigate them.
Keep in mind; those responsible for creating policies, and those tasked with exercising them, become initiative-taking advocates of the policies the way they exist. It is also important to keep in mind that policy IS NOT an effective measure of performance, especially in a critical incident.
These important subjects and others associated with a leadership perspective to force analysis are all part of the course developed by CIR. Real experience drives enriched education.
Stay safe and engaged!
Sgt. Jamie Borden (Ret.) Founder, CIR
Critical Incident Review
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The CIR Team has logged thousands of hours of continued and focused education in the field of Human Behavioral Sciences as it relates to law enforcement and has also logged thousands of hours of documented instruction time with multiple law enforcement entities as instructors, lecturers and authors.