Why a problem oriented approach?

Ever since Goldstein (1979, 1990) demonstrated that by tailoring responses to the underlying causes of problems rather than symptoms, sustainable solutions to crime and disorder issues could be found, many have supported the problem solving approach. Indeed as so many conditions contribute to the commission of crime & disorder the current government have made it clear that problem-oriented partnerships exist as the only viable long-term strategy, a common theme across Europe, North America, and Australasia. With the interest has come investment. HMIC (1997, 2000); and the Audit Commission, 1999) have conducted numerous studies whilst the government has placed significant financial investment into the concept, most notably the Crime Reduction programme between 1999-2002. As Crawford (1998) stated there appears consensus that problem oriented policing provides a suitable and pragmatic means of policing. Discussion with practitioners in this area highlight the following reasons for this:

a) It is a style of policing many communities in the UK want, in that it places great emphasis upon resolving community problems, which engages the public and partners alike.

b) It is consistent with government policy (Local Strategic Partnerships) and legislation (Crime & Disorder Act) that require the police, local government and other partners to improve community safety together. The government insisted that 2002 Crime & Disorder strategies were based upon a professional scanning and analysis (the audit), together with evidence led responses and assessment criteria. It also supports government policy in relation to social cohesion and civil renewal.

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c) It provides a viable strategy for reducing an ever increasing public demand.

d) It provides a consistent framework for more effective policing, in that policing issues could be properly identified, analysed, responded to and evaluated.

e) It provides more cost effective policing in that resources can be properly targeted and good practice utilised.

f) The philosophy has been shown to work – police forces that have effectively implemented this approach have reduced crime/disorder and overall demand. High profile examples are seen in the Boston gun project (Bragg et al. 2001), Kirkholt burglary reduction (Pease, 1992) as well as the annual Home Office ‘Tilley’ awards.

As Laycock & Webb (2003) write, referring to a problem-oriented approach, “what else would you do?” Indeed a recent survey of all forces in England & Wales conducted for the ACPO working group on problem solving shows this approach widespread. However as Laycock and Webb (2003) go on to say whilst the case has been made, implementation has been difficult. This has been highlighted by numerous government-sponsored inspections including one by HMIC (1998), which found only 17(5%) of 335 national initiatives put forward as good practice could be shown as successful. Indeed the phenomenon known as ‘implementation failure’ is reported as an enormous problem (Tonry & Farrington, 1995b).


Why a problem oriented approach is so difficult

Over the last 20 years an enormous range of policies, strategies and action plans have trumpeted the imminent arrival of problem solving approaches to policing. During this period, whilst problem solving initiatives of the highest quality have taken place throughout the UK, there is little evidence that the majority of police forces have managed to make the move towards becoming problem solving/ oriented organisations. At present, the delivery of problem solving in the UK is best characterised as being based on isolated pockets of good practice generated by a small number of highly motivated individuals. If this remains the
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case then problem solving will never reach the organisational mainstream and, as a consequence, policing in the UK will face significantly more difficulties when tackling the wide range of current and future challenges. Further, failed attempts not only consume resources but sap motivation and affect the reputation of the forces who attempt this approach.

There appear a number of fundamental and historic explanations for the failure of the police to engage successfully in partnership initiatives. Kirby (2003), divided the reasons for this between the police / partners / and the public. For instance in relation to the Police, many have criticised leadership for not implementing policy statements. Second, at practitioner level there is strong evidence that the police as an organisation are enforcement rather than prevention led. Billingsley (1992) reported that the Harris Research Centre showed that whereas 86% of the public saw crime prevention as important the police more generally felt that strong policing, arrest and prosecution were more effective. Reed & Tilley (1996) stated that the police culture was so wrapped up in crime detection and the use of law enforcement there were no serious prospects of implementing Problem Oriented Policing (POP). Finally, it is clear that some difficulties lie outside police control. Although there is considerable advice on how to structure partnerships, any introductory text on psychology will show that ‘group dynamics’ ultimately deliver or disrupt the process. In community safety initiatives these dynamics are magnified as partners come to the table from different backgrounds, with different perspectives and different priorities. Inevitably formality, hierarchy, the role of co-ordinator, trust and accountability become important. Crawford & Jones (1995), reported that there was an avoidance of overt conflict in such groups resulting in multiple aims often being accommodated so as not to exclude any partner, a practice that served to dilute and confuse. Other dynamics have resulted in ‘group think’ or the ‘risky shift’ phenomena, where outlandish decisions have been made to protect the status of group members.

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In another analysis Bullock & Tilley (2003) summarised five main reasons, which obstruct the mainstreaming of POP: • •

The imperative to respond to emergencies

Middle ranking officers especially sergeants and inspectors, caught between needs to respond and needs to steer and facilitate a problemoriented way of working

• Cynicism among many officers about HQ inspired reform movements. These officers are apt to conform minimally and sit out what they construe as the latest fad (as reported by Leigh et al. 1998) • •

Pitching responsibility for problem solving at beat officers

Hastily, inadequately thought-through implementation

This document is intended to provide guidance to those forces that wish to find a way of turning their force into a problem-solving organisation. This paper is an attempt to show in practical terms what mainstream implementation programme is required. Its authors have both been involved as project managers at Force level in Lancashire & Hertfordshire forces and the paper has been compiled with the help of officers from Merseyside, Cleveland, Surrey, and Hampshire who have also been involved at Force level implementation as well as with the assistance of Home Office staff engaged in this field.

It must be emphasised that the development of organisational problem solving is not a small, isolated project. Experience shows success involves a systematic look at the whole Force and the initiation of widespread organisational change using project and programme management methodologies. As a consequence this guidance will be structured using a model for organisational change and, whilst numerous models exist, Lewin’s (1958) three-stage model of organisational change will be used to provide a simple map of a proposed route
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to follow. According to Lewin, for effective organisational change to occur, that organisation must:

Unfreeze Change Re-freeze

the present way of working to a new way of working the new way of working

These issues will be dealt with in turn.


Stage 1: ‘unfreezing’ your organisation

The key issues within this phase of the process revolve around establishing a “vision” for problem solving coupled with the establishment of a persuasive and well-publicised business case for the changes required. Whilst this is fairly obvious history has shown completing this first stage successfully is also exceptional


Setting the vision

Within the various policies, strategies and action plans that have advocated 'problem solving' few provide clear definition of what this means. When the then Home Office Police Research Group reviewed attempts to implement POP in the UK (Britpop, 1996)). They highlighted variations in terms of: • • • • • •

A wide or narrow geographical spread A short or long- term lifespan The application of POP to any issue that arises, or only to specific predetermined issues Problem identification from the top-down or bottom-up The introduction of separate POP teams, or the adoption of POP techniques by all officers The identification of problems by the police, or by the community and external agencies

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The formation and implementation of responses by police officers only, or in partnership with the community and external agencies.

Each organisation will have its own needs and has its own requirements for what it wants this approach to deliver. Whilst this is true, it is also true that the failure to define precisely what the term “problem solving / problem –oriented policing ” means, and the failure to be clear on the organisational implications of that definition, is at the root of many failures to implement it. The problem solving vision needs to provide a clear strategic direction for the Force and it needs to be coupled with clear aims and outcomes.

Goldstein (1996), for example is concerned that POP has been trivialized. He saw the concept being most effective if implemented at a strategic level, whereas he observes that it has been focused at a tactical level. This has had its benefits but has also taken attention away from the critical need to engage in researching more substantive problems that the police confront.

In pragmatic terms experience has shown that Forces must decide their strategic response in three particular areas. First, whether or not implementation should be incremental or holistic; in essence will it involve the whole organisation or just Beat Officers? Whether or not the Force will launch all the programme at one time or whether there will be further pilot areas. The move to a holistic model in one go creates a high risk in terms of success, and would have to be thoroughly planned although the knowledge is present to pursue that approach. The negative aspect of a limited approach is that infrastructure issues may not be dealt with and therefore it will be difficult to sustain the project.

The second strategic decision concerns corporacy and the level at which the centre dictates implementation should be consistent across Basic Command Units (BCU’s). BCU’s will be at different areas of development and have different problems to overcome in order to implement the philosophy of POP. Whatever the decision, corporacy is important in systems, software, or paperwork which BCU’s may generate to monitor delivery. Whilst one would not want to constrain innovation it
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would be expensive and inefficient in terms of learning if such procedures were not shared.

Finally another issue raises itself as to whether or not Forces allow a top down or bottom up approach to identify and resolve problems. The advent of the National Intelligence Model (NIM) has played a major part in ameliorating that problem and a description of how to integrate the two has been made out in a further paper (Kirby & McPherson, 2004).


Being clear on the business case

Put simply research within organisations intending to introduce ‘problem solving’ indicates that at ground level this is seen as an unnecessary gimmick introduced by managers with no clear idea of the pressures being placed on those responsible for delivery “at the sharp end”. Even organisations that are fairly advanced in terms of problem solving can have substantial sections of entrenched opinion along these lines. Often those managing change have failed to build a persuasive business case for problem solving that goes beyond the expressed wishes of the Home Office or a Chief Constable.

However, whilst the case for change of some sort is persuasive and that individual initiatives can be shown to be effective, the case for problem solving as the optimum solution at Force level is substantially more difficult to demonstrate. Some work does exist that provides some evidence for success, however there are currently few unambiguous examples of where a problem solving methodology has delivered real, practical and sustainable results for a UK police force as a whole. This means that the business case must be linked to a clear vision of the benefits to be provided to the organisation coupled with some realistic and practical first steps that have meaning and provide direct benefits to those whom the organisation wishes to engage in problem solving.


Communicating the change to your organisation

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The final stage in terms of preparing the organisation is communicating the proposed change. The move towards organisational problem solving is an extremely complex one in which it is necessary to generate a fundamental shift in the mindset of the organisation. The organisation needs to move from a reactive, demand driven approach to a proactive, problem-oriented mindset. Whilst this may be obvious the implications of this move have only occasionally been addressed. If communication is always crucial during periods of organisational change, it is doubly so when trying to develop problem solving. For the change to be successful, officers and police staff have to be persuaded that the change is necessary and that they should do much more than merely react to the demand that comes in using their time, energy, imagination and commitment to deliver a proactive response. In order to “market” problem solving effectively there needs to be a systematic communication and consultation strategy in place from the outset. A key part of this strategy will involve leadership from the very highest levels within the Force. Given the pressures on ACPO and senior managers within police forces, this may be difficult. However, employees within all organisations are adept at spotting those issues that are genuinely seen as important by senior managers. Failure to communicate and lead problem solving from the outset will undermine any future plans.


Stage 2 : Delivering the change

There are three main stages involved in this phase. First, a comprehensive action plan must be created to outline the range of actions that need to be undertaken to develop problem solving. Second a baseline assessment of the organisation must be undertaken and, third, the plan must be implemented in a systematic way.


Phase 1: The action plan

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Police Forces will understandably be at different levels of maturity in relation to achieving the critical success factors for a problem oriented approach. Therefore this paper would advocate that when the Force has decided upon the outcome it wants to achieve it should set out the areas it needs to develop together with the way they need to be developed.

The following shows two examples of how to construct an action plan, both follow a business process approach:


Example 1

The Lancashire Constabulary decided that to mainstream the approach the right staff needed to be in place, those people needed to know their role in the organisation, have the tools to allow them to deliver, and provide space and acknowledgement for delivering. From this approach a comprehensive action plan was devised, part of which is shown below.


Quality staff

Assessment showed that to have quality staff recruitment, induction, selection, reward, and appraisal needed to be examined. • • •

Recruitment was reviewed to sustain the community problem solving philosophy A competency framework was put in place featuring POP The POP philosophy was infused into all induction processes and selection processes. Recruitment for specialist posts, including detective posts and promotion to Sergeant, involved all staff being questioned about their involvement and understanding of problem solving

• •

Open learning centres were opened at HQ and on BCU’s with CD ROM’s covering problem solving expertise Probationary Constables have to complete a live problem solving initiative in their training

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A reward system was initiated. Examples involved an annual competition whereby the winner attended the international conference at San Diego. Similarly Chief Officer and BCU Commander commendations changed to acknowledge work that was partnership, as well as law enforcement, based.


Who know their part in the organisation

Those who were employed to deliver problem solving within the force area require clarity of role and purpose. Actions taken here involved: •

Drawing up quantitative and qualitative objectives to focus the force area into problem solving. The quantitative objectives included the reduction of crime, the reduction of disorder and nuisance, and the reduction of road casualties. The qualitative elements have evolved over 3 years and relate to public satisfaction and confidence (many of these issues will be subsumed by the National Policing Plan and PPAF)

• • • • • •

Roles were re-evaluated to make sure they added value to community problem solving Priority posts were filled to support POP, vacancies were held in support departments A video was produced to explain the POP philosophy Each division and department provided training so that all their staff understood their part in this philosophy A monthly internal newspaper dedicates space to highlight the POP approach Presentations were made to all stakeholder groups and the general community to make them aware of the philosophy the Force was following. A twice-yearly newspaper is delivered to every household in Lancashire with examples of this approach


Who have the tools to deliver

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Many tools were identified. Most importantly staff needed to be empowered and be close to their community; as such resources were most effective when they were devolved to local control. Secondly ICT systems needed to supply accurate and timely information; for the Constabulary this meant that crime and disorder records had to be merged. Further there was the critical issue of partnerships and the capability to implement them successfully at strategic and tactical levels. Finally, and overarching all of these, came the concept of knowledge management, in that the organisation needed to be able to harness and spread good practice.

In these areas the Constabulary took the following action: • The Constabulary changed to a structure, which divided the Force into geographical areas, each under the direction of a geographic Inspector to promote ownership and local identity. Each BCU was assessed as to whether it had placed as much of its resources as possible under the control of geographical areas • • • • • Budgets were devolved to Division and departmental control. Cuts fell on support departments rather than front line officers Training, such as financial management, was given so that staff in geographical areas had the skills to manage their areas Discreet communities were identified and profiled to facilitate local problem solving Consultation groups and independent lay advisors were identified and systems put in place to gather their views There was considerable work done to put the systems in place to effectively identify/analyse/ respond to community problems as well as analysing the response to community problems • Each geographic area and support department set individual plans and targets. Two analysts on each BCU provide, relevant and timely information concerning re-occurring incidents and trends. HQ provides daily information concerning reported crime and disorder •

An intranet database was put in place to share good practice. Since 1999 an annual problem-solving conference has been held at Force HQ

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Who are allowed to deliver

Identifying and producing the tools was only effective if staff were able to use them, therefore leadership was identified as one of the most crucial aspects. There was also a need to manage the incoming demand from the public, only deploying to necessary incidents, thereby giving officers the space to pro-actively identify and solve community problems. Actions in this area include: • A Force project was initiated to look at call handling centres and deployment issues. This covers a myriad of issues designed to deliver a better service aligned to problem solving • • The use of volunteers has been introduced A SARA form was introduced across the Force to structure problem solving. This was later built on by a quality assurance programme, which placed a POP coordinator on each geographic area • • • • • • Presentations were made to all stakeholder groups and the general community to make them aware of the POP philosophy Directories of useful contacts have been produced at local level Local officers are acknowledged for getting involved in partnerships at a tactical level Joint training has taken place with partners, albeit not on a systematic basis The Lancashire Partnership Against Crime (LANPAC), a registered charity provides funding for community problem solving initiatives (i.e. youth shelters) Leaders were selected and put in place in respect of their understanding and commitment to the philosophy • There have been initiatives in place to share information with partners. Multiagency teams are in place and there is a multi-agency crime/disorder database • Chief Officers regularly state their commitment to the philosophy and finally.. Who do deliver outputs and outcomes


How do police forces know that their inputs (their officers, their vehicles, and their
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policing strategies) are linked to their outputs and eventually outcomes? Actions in this area include: •

A rigorous performance management structure, now linked to the National Intelligence Model, which holds people accountable for community problem solving. This structure starts with ACPO and follows a tiered approach to BCU’s, Departments, geographic areas and individuals

Checks and balances have been put in place to audit such issues as crime reporting.

Once these implementation issues were completed a present position audit was completed at a Force level and a risk assessment was then made concerning the blockages that might be faced, and the impact these would have in hindering implementation. Some of the risk was significant. The move to geographical policing for instance had been seen in many forces to dilute resources and create officer safety issues. Once each risk had been highlighted a contingency plan was put in place. For instance, one activity to minimise difficulty was an informal weekly meeting between the staff associations and the Deputy Chief Constable to quickly dispel rumours. Finally the project also provided a checklist of success factors, which would enable everyone within the Constabulary to know what the successful implementation of POP would look like. 3.1.7 Example 2

Another action plan to deal with the same issue was recently conducted by Hertfordshire Police who used the EFQM structure on which to formulate their action plan.

The advantage of adopting existing organisational improvement models, such as the EFQM Excellence model, is that they bring with them a number of ready made self-assessment tools that can assist in diagnosing the issues that need to be addressed within any action plan. Some of these tools, such as “matrix” questionnaires, can be used not only to assist in this self-assessment but also to provide benchmark scores to measure the organisational health of problem
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solving. It is common for forces to have units skilled in the use of these techniques and it is relatively easy to transfer the use of these models from looking at all aspects of the whole organisation to looking at a specific feature of policing that is, at least potentially, a thread through every part of the organisation. An example of how this can be delivered is set out below:

Typical Components of an action plan to develop problem solving (by EFQM enabler category) Leadership • Establish ACPO lead for Problem solving. • Development of and support for “champions” at all levels of the organisation • Force wide practitioner meetings chaired by ACPO lead • Annual problem solving conferences and awards • Reward and recognition schemes • Establish clear leadership responsibilities for all supervisors/managers on problem solving

People • General awareness training throughout the organisation • Specialist training packages for practitioners, supervisors and at ACPO and senior management level • Develop Aide Memoirs and guidance materials • Internal and external marketing strategies • Revise recruitment, promotion and appraisal criteria to foreground problem solving • Accredited training programmes (possibly linked to competency payments)

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Processes • Establish a clear and easily understood Force model for problem solving (i.e. SARA, 5i’s etc) • Integrate problem solving within NIM and Tasking & Co-ordination processes • Establish Force documentation and templates to structure problem solving activity • Linking of partners and police within tactical and strategic processes

Resources • Establishment of a central unit to provide support and co-ordinate problem solving activity across the Force • Identification of funding streams that can be used and channelled into problem solving • Establish intranet/ internet support systems to assist practitioners (including good practice databases)

Strategy and Policy • Develop “vision” statement • Revision of Force policies to foreground problem solving approaches • Establish a performance management framework to monitor and drive problem solving activity.


Phase 2: setting a baseline assessment

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Creating a new way of doing business may prove more difficult than expected because the apparent simplicity of the problem solving process generates substantially more complex organisational issues. Where problem solving has had difficulty in flourishing, the issues are often very similar. In these situations, problem solving is usually seen as an “add on” activity, which may involve the use of specialist forms, but which is based on the activities of a few “specialists” and which is also, in effect, based on the efforts of a few isolated “champions” of problem solving. In such organisations, a few examples of good problem solving will exist but there is generally little resilience. The problem with developing problem solving is that virtually every police force will contain skilled individuals who have made a greater or lesser impact on developing problem solving. Blanket assumptions about the state of problem solving within a Force run the risk of either alienating some individuals (who may be the kinds of champion needed to ensure the success of the programme) or of overestimating the need for the most basic training to ensure that staff know the basic vocabulary of problem solving. To deal with this issue and ensure that an appropriate plan is developed, it is essential to undertake a high quality baseline assessment and audit of the current state of problem solving within the Force.

In order to achieve this, some Forces have gathered together a group, or a number of groups, of stakeholders in order to map out all the different areas of the organisation that need to be altered in order to foreground problem solving. Hertfordshire’s approach, using EFQM, provided a more objective way to assess current status.

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Baseline assessment and planning using EFQM model – Hertfordshire Constabulary

In February 2003, work began to further develop organisational problem solving in Hertfordshire. In order to do this the EFQM process was used to create a baseline assessment of the current state of problem solving in the county. Using an adapted version of the EFQM matrix questionnaire, a one-page questionnaire was created that covered the 5 enabler categories (Leadership, people, processes, resources and strategy) along with the 3 results categories (described as results for staff, victims and the community). This questionnaire was circulated throughout the Constabulary and was coupled with a series of interviews with a range of officers / staff. The results of this work have provided both guidance to the subsequent action plan along with baseline scores – both overall and by category. This process is intended to be repeated on an annual basis to give an indication as to the progress being made in introducing problem solving coupled with an ongoing monitoring of the emerging barriers to successful implementation of the action plan.


Phase 3: implementing the action plan

Prior to any action plan being formulated there are many examples of good practice from across the UK that can be drawn on. A substantial body of academic and other literature exists, including for example, entries to the organisational improvement category of the Tilley Awards – which can be accessed via the Home Office Crime Reduction website ( In addition, the value of site visits and networking with those Forces that have or are currently implementing problem solving cannot be overstated. The strategic need for success in problem solving can sometimes lead to a rather partial reporting of the success and / or progress

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of individual initiatives. Seeing activity on the ground gives an invaluable insight into the reality of delivery and the problems to be encountered.

In addition, a common feature of many good practical problem solving developments, which becomes obvious on a site visit as opposed to reading the report, is the level of skill, determination and sheer hard work that is essential to the delivery of what are often very complex initiatives. This, again, foregrounds the role of leadership in problem solving and of involving key “champions” in the process of delivering a problem solving organisation. It is critical to ensure that those selected to develop problem solving for a Force have the necessary skills, attitude and knowledge to complete the programme. Given the history of failure in terms of developing problem solving, there is a particular need for longer-term organisational change to take place in the context of practical hands-on support for problem solving activity. In many Forces this has taken the shape of establishing a small, central unit that provides both consultancy support to practitioners in the field as well as engaging in the strategic development role.

Any Force wide roll out involves significant co-ordination. Lancashire, using the strategic framework mentioned earlier, asked representative teams from each Division and Department (including commanders, constables and support staff) to attend a 2-day workshop. This resulted in each providing both a oneyear and a three-year plan looking at the changes they would make to embed POP within their part of the organisation. This meant unprecedented change to systems and processes throughout the Constabulary, which moved forward in a co-ordinated fashion.

Another crucial factor in developing effective action plans is the time factor. Implementing organisational change is a long-term process and all phases of the change process require an investment of time. Given that the move towards problem solving involves some degree of cultural shift it will take time to generate broad organisational awareness of the need to change and the advantages to all of developing problem solving. It may well be that the
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baseline assessment and subsequent gap analysis will highlight issues such as recruitment, promotion and appraisal criteria and that there are skills shortages in key parts of the Force that will obstruct development. These are clearly issues that will take time to resolve and they will take years and not months to have an impact once change has occurred. Without strong and consistent support and leadership of change, over a prolonged period of time, it is highly likely that the action plan will fail to be fully implemented and that the move into organisational problem solving will not occur. It is particularly important that this support is maintained at ACPO and BCU Commander level, as there are many examples of where changes at these ranks have seen a change in strategic emphasis and a return by problem solving to the margins of the organisation. Where strong support for problem solving has been maintained despite a change in personnel, those police areas, such as Lancashire, have seen clear benefits.

The nature of the problem solving vision and subsequent action plan will, obviously, dictate the complexity of the issues faced in developing organisational problem solving. However, it is common for these kinds of plans, for reasons already discussed, to be large in scale, complex and likely to take years and not months to implement. The realities of policing would suggest that any plan of this kind would eventually involve several changes of personnel amongst those directly responsible for either implementing or commissioning the work.

As a consequence the plan needs to be driven in a structured way, preferably using a project management methodology, to ensure that appropriate records are kept. It is often useful however to consider the nature of the plan that is developed. It is relatively common for the development of problem solving to be thought of (and resourced) as a “project”. However, a recent publication from the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) states the following:

“ Where there is major change there will be complexity and risk, and there are usually many interdependencies to manage and conflicting priorities to resolve….. delivering the right benefits and outcomes from change requires a
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structured framework to co-ordinate, communicate, align, manage and control the activities involved. Programme management provides this framework, through organisation, processes, inputs and outputs, and ways of thinking” (Managing Successful Programmes, OGC, 2003)

Where the developments in problem solving being proposed are small in scale and focussed on the delivery of very specific outputs, then a project management approach is likely to be most appropriate. However, where, as is usual, the change required is broad and more complex in nature then it is likely to be more effective to conceive of this, from the start, as a programme. The implications of such a change of perspective are that the responsibility for delivering the range of interventions necessary should reside in the hands of a series of project managers, spread throughout the organisation, and that these projects should then be co-ordinated by a small central programme team and manager. This approach also acknowledges the size of management resources and leadership necessary to implement organisational change. Those locations where problem solving fails to develop are often characterised by a tendency to see problem solving as a relatively straightforward, stand alone project that can be delivered by a lone or small group of individuals.

One implementation issue often, ironically, overlooked when designing plans to develop problem solving is establishing the criteria for determining when implementation has actually been achieved. This is one area in which plans are typically very unfocussed and there are often no clear criteria for understanding when implementation has been achieved for the organisation concerned. Using a very basic evaluation methodology, one should expect that both process would guide the implementation plan and impact measures. Process measures are likely to focus on the increased take up and delivery of problem solving activity on the ground. Impact measures will need to focus on achieving improvements in the area of police business which was intended to benefit from problem solving i.e. improved crime or demand reduction which can be attributed to problem solving.

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Stage 3: “Refreezing” the organisation

The final stage of organisational change is to “re-freeze” the organisation into its new ways of working. The principal themes within this “re-freeze” phase are leadership, learning and partnership working.



There remain strong tendencies within organisations to revert to old ways of working. This is particularly prevalent in policing given the tendency of managers and leaders to move from posts on a significantly more regular basis than many of the practitioners they manage. This threat is exacerbated by another particular issue when developing problem solving – which is that the long term, sustainable impact that problem solving is intended to deliver may take some time to become visible. During this period the additional effort required by practitioners to deliver problem solving may become increasingly questioned in the light of day-to-day policing demands. It is during this period, following the initial launch and publicity for “problem solving”, that the programme is at its most vulnerable. Weaknesses in the leadership of the programme during this phase are likely to prove difficult to remedy.

In order to address this issue, great care must be taken to ensure that the programme obtains and publicises “quick wins” that reinforce belief in the worth of problem solving. Strong leadership is required to continue to “sell” the business case of problem solving and to ensure that staff remain aware of the benefits of work in this area. In addition, supervisors must ensure that continued attention is paid to monitoring and maintaining problem solving approaches, as there will remain strong temptations to revert to old ways of working that may bring apparent “immediate” effects. Should the programme fail at this stage then the organisation may suffer a range of extremely negative side effects – including an increased lack of credibility for the potential of organisational change in general and of problem solving in particular.

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Given the length of time over which the organisational development of problem solving occurs, the evaluation and “learning” stage of organisational development is critical both to structure and resource appropriately. The scale and complexity of the programme make it unlikely that the original plan will be delivered as intended or even that the plan will remain the most appropriate one to deliver the original aims. This is also affected by the external environment, which is constantly changing due to the present Government’s efforts to improve community safety (i.e. specifically seen in the police reform agenda). Given this situation, it is advisable that from the start some conception exists that this is an iterative programme in which ongoing monitoring and evaluation play a crucial part in ensuring the ultimate delivery of the programme’s objectives.



Whilst the Police organisation continues to change so does the concept of ‘policing’. Recent years have seen the introduction of the extended police family, the concept of reassurance and of Police Community Support Officers. As such the once clearly regulated divide between the Police and other public agencies has now become blurred. The Police are finding themselves sharing and pooling resources with others. As this evolves so do joint initiatives and the tasking and co-ordinating of multi-agency teams. This is a quickly moving area and it is critical that any project understands this area and subsumes it.

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This document has examined the process of developing organisational problem solving by using the “unfreeze/change/re-freeze” methodology of organisational change. The key points identified within this process are as follows:



The organisation involves establishing a clear and coherent vision for problem solving within the organisation. This should be coupled with a strong business case that identifies the need for change and builds the case for problem solving as the solution to that need. This business case needs to be strongly marketed and strongly led at al levels within the organisation – but with a particular emphasis on having strong ACPO ownership.



The organisation involves undertaking a comprehensive baseline assessment that identifies the current health of problem solving within the organisation. This assessment will assist in the development of a gap analysis that will identify the critical parts of any action plan. This action plan needs to be implemented in the most appropriate way. On occasion when the desired change is small, it is appropriate to manage this change as a project. However, in the majority of circumstances, broad change is required in a number of areas across the organisation in order to create the necessary environment for problem solving to flourish. A critical aspect of this implementation process is to develop appropriate performance indicators so that there is wide spread awareness regarding what constitutes improved problem solving and also regarding the impact of that problem solving.



Involves maintaining strong leadership of the change process to ensure, particularly during the early period of the programme, that the organisation resists the temptation to resort to more traditional ways of working before the
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long-term changes involved have had time to develop and demonstrate impact. Refreezing also involves initiating an ongoing evaluation and monitoring process in which the programme and its elements can be constantly reviewed and, if necessary, altered to ensure that the ultimate aim is achieved.

Developing problem solving within policing organisations is a difficult and highly complex organisational change process that attempts to tackle some very deep-rooted organisational and cultural barriers. Whilst the exact scale of the task will depend on the organisation involved, success will invariably depend on the adoption of a systematic project and programme management methodology by skilled and motivated staff. Above all, as indicated throughout this document, the critical factor in any attempt to introduce such a change will be committed and sustained leadership throughout the organisation particularly at ACPO level. The absence of leadership, as in all such processes of organisational change, will lead almost inevitably to failure.

Stuart Kirby Dave Reed



Audit Commission (1999) ‘Safety in numbers’. A thematic inspection on Community Safety.

Billingsley, R.E (1992), Partnership approach to crime reduction, M.A. Thesis, University of Exeter.

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