Durham Constabulary - Managing Police Performance To Deliver Success

Durham Constabulary - Managing Police Performance To Deliver Success

Durham Constabulary is a UK police force responsible for policing the county of County Durham and the local authority of Darlington. Today, Durham Constabulary employs just under 3,000 people and has an annual budget of £112 million.

In a push to put in place better performance management and strategy execution processes, Durham constabulary hired me to help. When I started working with Durham, their strategic planning was too operational and not focused enough, and their performance measurement was overshadowed by Government reporting requirements.

Working closely with the Chief Constable, his leadership team and supported by the performance management group, we established a new performance management regime that helped Durham Constabulary become the best performing police force in the country.

It all started with a Plan-on-a-Page

Every successful performance management regime is anchored in the strategy and the best way to achieve this is to build a one-page strategy map. The aim of such a map is to identify the key strategic objectives and gain consensus on the organisational priorities.

You can see one of Durham Constabulary’s strategy map (which we called ‘Plan on a Page’) in the figure below.

This Plan on a Page was developed by first conducting individual interviews with the members of the chief officer team, other key individuals as well as representative groups of wider employees and stakeholders.

I then analysed the interview data to draft a first version of the Plan on a Page. I took that draft back to Durham Constabulary and presented it to the senior team in a workshop. We then discussed the map, made some amendments and then approved the final draft. Following senior management approval, the Plan was then taken to management groups who made further minor alterations. Finally, a number of staff forums were run throughout the organisation to build awareness and also highlight any other issues re the objectives and the wording.

Gillian Porter, Durham Constabulary’s Head of Performance and Analysis, stressed the value of closely involving managers and staff in the Plan on a Page creation process. “As people contributed to the exercise on an individual level they felt a sense of ownership, and they understood the linkages, which made a huge difference in securing the buy-in”, she says. “Also the senior team felt they had a unifying framework that still enabled them to manage according to their own personal styles.”

The Plan-on-a-Page explained

The final version of the strategic one-page plan mapped the strategic objectives across a number of layers. At the top of the map sits the overall mission of the organisation. In the next layer down, Durham Constabulary identified the core deliverables (or the things it needs to be good at) to achieve the mission. The purple layer then articulates the key enabling factors that will help Durham Constabulary achieve its deliverables. At the base of the map sit the objectives in relation to the vital resources required to make the strategy happen. Finally, vertically alongside sit the goals in relation to value for money and efficiency, which obviously relate to all the other perspectives.

Evolving the Plan-on-a-Page

Durham Constabulary has made sure that the Plan-on-a-Page stayed relevant and fresh. The organisation has been updating and revising the plan on an annual basis. The original Plan-on-a-page was developed under then Chief Constable Jon Stoddart but has been revised and refreshed several times during his leadership as well as under the leadership of his successor Chief Constable Mike Barton. During my initial engagement I made sure that we transferred the relevant skills into the organisation so that they are able to maintain and evolve the performance management system themselves.

Measuring Police Performance

Instead of jumping straight from the strategic map to performance indicators, we first develop the questions Durham Constabulary needed to have an answer in relation to performance and strategy delivery. We call these questions ‘Key Performance Questions’, or KPQs for short.

Porter finds KPQs to be “hugely powerful,” as an approach for better ensuring that metrics are strongly aligned to strategic objectives. She says, “KPIs are still vitally important within the constabulary, but the KPQs put these metrics into context. Sometimes aspects of policing are difficult to put into straight numbers; however, there’s a tendency to measure things that are easy to collect data against and performance can get skewed as a result. She adds that indicators can be dangerous things, especially when you get hung up on targets. “Now the focus is moving to identifying solutions rather than just performance against the indicators. It’s becoming more about the conversation than the numbers.”

Key Performance Questions

As an illustration of how KPQs help convert strategic objectives into KPIs, consider the objective ‘Tackle Criminality’:
One of the KPQs:
How well do we prevent people from becoming criminals?
Number of first time entrants as a percentage of all persons arrested, as well as KPIs around reoffending rates and the percentage of the population who are offenders.

As a further example we can look at the objective ‘Create a Citizen Focus’ One of the KPQs:
How well are staff focusing on [community] needs’.
Answers are provided by a survey-based KPI that asks ‘how confident are you in your local police force,’ and ‘percentage of people who believe that they can influence what issues the Police prioritize in [their] community.’

Communicating The Strategy

One page strategy maps are powerful communication tools that allow organisations to effectively communicate the strategy and strategic priorities. Durham Constabulary used the strategy map as the central tool for a large-scale communication exercise to improve strategic awareness across the constabulary. This included regular articles in the in-house magazine 'Copper Plate,' as well as the use of posters and other communication instruments. Porter explains. "We put posters showing the Plan on a Page everywhere throughout the organisation (see example below), such as offices and corridors: this ensured that everyone would see it and it proved very useful in gaining market penetration."

As well as communicating awareness of the Plan on a Page, Durham Constabulary also payed attention to communicating performance to the Plan. Each department has a quarterly review and conversation that considers performance to the Plan and strategic actions. In addition, monthly meetings are held that consider risks and threats against the core deliverables and there are also weekly 'wash- up' meeting where these deliverables are reviewed at local levels and that analyse the success of the tactics used to implement the plans.

Porter is certain that the Plan on the Page has delivered huge performance dividends to Durham Constabulary. “It crystallized our thinking,” she says. “Previously, we were making good progress but the strategic plan or vision was very detailed and lacked focus, as a result there was not insignificant confusion over what was important for us to deliver to and what citizens expected from us. Now we are clear as to our priorities and this is translated right down the organization.”

Ideas and insights you can steal

Durham Constabulary has successfully mapped their strategy into a simple Plan on a Page that now articulates the top strategic goals to everyone inside and outside their organisation. Particularly successful was the level of staff and stakeholder engagement during the strategy development as well as the effective communication of the Plan on a Page in order to boost strategic awareness. All of this has given Durham Constabulary a simple and clear plan, great indicators, and effective performance management processes.



Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.

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