Secrets of strategic decision-making
Police departments across the nation strive, with varying degrees of success, to keep pace with the severity and changing face of crime in their neighborhoods by acquiring new technology, using better problem-solving methods and building relationships with the communities they serve. Available resources and manpower being limited, this growth in crime has presented police administrators with a host of management problems. At the same time, community residents and federal and state justice departments are demanding that police agencies adopt a more proactive approach to controlling crime. But, a senior police officer in upstate New York laments, “We’re drowning in a blitz of day-to-day problems and we are being asked to look beyond. How is that done?” This skepticism may not be typical, yet it underscores the need to explore if police departments can indeed adopt a proactive and strategic outlook — and if so, how?.
Businesses, too, have limited access to resources. They also have to contend with short-term (daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly) targets and goals. But there is a difference. These short-term goals are meticulously defined to meet the strategic or long-term objectives of the business. Benchmarking is done to identify superior practices, and auditing to study reasons for failures. This information and the relevant learning are then shared among sister-divisions within the business, often on a global scale. As the CEO of the successful Dell Computer Corporation remarked, “It’s not that we have not made mistakes — we’ve made lots of them. But we are really good at learning, and avoid repeating them. That’s just common sense and being otherwise would be dumb.” Unfortunately, when it comes to police departments throughout this country, this concept of shared learning is only informal and unsystematic...