Globes of Importance

We all do it. And we all get frustrated with at least one colleague who does it a bit too much. When we are under pressure and we are working full out it is easy to begin to rush around, become a little ‘larger than life’. Often this is accompanied by much grandiose fuss and bluster. Some of us get stuck in this mode all the time. I know this, because I was one of those people. Success is rarely luck, more usually hard work and sacrifice. So to justify the sacrifice you are making – be it your social life, family life or something else – you begin to tell yourself how important it is that you work this hard. If you work within Policing, this is not hard to justify.

So your behaviour becomes entrenched and you work hard and you silently congratulate yourself. The thing is, at least half of your colleagues are doing the same thing and the prevalence increases the higher up the ranks you go. I think it really begins to kick in at Inspector level then takes off exponentially the further along the line you look.

Each person may be performing adequately or better in their role but most have forgotten to stop and look around them. They each operate in their own individual Globe of Importance (GOI for those of you who like that sort of thing) not realising that this globe stops others from stepping in and more importantly prevents the individual from stepping out.

I don’t think GOIs are necessarily a bad thing, but I’d like to see bigger, more inclusive ones being formed. A team of response officers or a CID office for instance. As your rank increases, so the size of your GOI should increase. Think of it as a busy snow globe…!

So how on earth do you manage a GOI the size needed for, say, a Commander? Perhaps ACPO ranks think this a ridiculous idea. Well, in fact it is at this level that GOI’s really come into their own. Policing is traditionally a hierarchical organisation which operated almost entirely on a linear structural model. There isn’t really much reason reason to fiddle with that structure if GOIs grow as rank increases and then one very important change is made. The very top has to join the very bottom.

The traditional and current model begins with brand new employees, officers or civilians, joining and learning (hopefully) best practice. It ends with high ranking officers who, to achieve that rank, have necessarily engaged in only a few years of practical policing. There is nothing wrong in saying that. It is not a criticism. No one would ever achieve those lofty heights if they hung around on a response team for 10-15 years first. However, that means the bottom of the organisation is ‘green’ and the top, whilst by now well versed in other skills, is perhaps a little bit ‘green’ also. The ‘job’ changes fast and if you’re not doing the hands on side of it, you do become disjointed very quickly.

If the bottom is learning and the top is leading, what holds everything together? Well, yes, it’s is of course the middle. The middle ranks and the career PCs. The workhorses of the organisation. They have experience and knowledge. They teach their skills purely by practise and they operate on behalf of their leadership.

Imagine a very long line. It is straining. The top is pulling and the bottom is running to keep up. The middle has got to be strong. The middle keeps the top and the bottom from falling away. All that pressure on the largely forgotten and unthanked middle. Yet it is so very easy to take away a lot of that pressure, to allow the middle more time to achieve for themselves rather than holding on to everything and ‘making it work’ for the sake of those above and below.

Instead of a linear model, it must become a circle. Thus creating the largest Globe of Importance. The top must bend around to meet the bottom. It might feel hard to do, or impossible even, but it’s actually really easy and will transform management style. In these austere times it is more important than ever to look at transformational solutions.

I believe this to be a simple and effective solution which I would, if I were in a position to, urge ACPO to look at seriously. The era of the aloof senior officer has gone and if you don’t make a change, change will happen without you. Bend down to close the circle. (A more dramatic person might cry ‘save yourselves’ at this point!)

Thank you for reading this, if you’ve got this far – I wrote it from within my very own GOI!

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