President's Column: Achieving a positive organisational culture

NZPA - Chris Cahill | Sun April 1st, 2018

In my role, I am privileged to hear first-hand about policing right through the ranks, and Police, like many contemporary organisations, is talking about culture.

Culture is what defines an organisation, for those within it and for those it interacts with externally. For culture to be positive, it must be reinforced through actions from the top, and not left to feel-good rhetoric and glossy posters to walk that talk.

Police has adopted the “culture philosophy” and taken to heart the 2007 Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation for strong, well-defined and widely understood values to be part of its business model, appointments process and performance management.

The legitimacy of Police culture can, however, be undermined when theory and practice do not align, as can happen when values are applied from a limited perspective that fails to respect the interpretation of others.

A variety of approaches can be taken to tackle any problem. It is inappropriate to question someone’s professionalism simply because you don’t agree with an individual’s approach. Multiple approaches can still be professional.

You can’t promote diversity of style and initiative and then whack it down under the guise of not meeting Police values.

I am increasingly concerned by examples where different opinions are not only discouraged, but actively chastised for deviating from the “party line”.

It appears that some diversity of thought is being deliberately stifled within Police, with Police then referencing values as a justification for this emerging practice.

Accusing individuals with different points of view of not acting professionally or with integrity is not compatible with a successful organisational culture.

As a strongly opinionated person who is not afraid to speak out, I have learnt, albeit by sometimes making mistakes, that you can maintain professionalism by choosing when and how to express your opinion.

Any organisation that practises a culture where freedom of expression and diversity of views are not respected or encouraged will suffer long-term consequences.

Police has adopted the Police High Performance Framework (PHPF), a key plank of which is to encourage people to bring their individual approach to their respective roles. As you will read in this issue of Police News, the PHPF is alive and well at the Police College with its increased “emphasis on values-based behaviour, problem solving and personal responsibility”.

Police is talking about upskilling an individual recruit’s perspective so they can apply their particular skills to real-world policing in the districts they are assigned to.

However, we are seeing too many examples where the talk just doesn’t align with the walk.

It is not a healthy culture when individuals who offer a different opinion are disrespected, silenced or actively encouraged to look outside Police for their future.

This points to a failure in the organisation’s cultural practice and seems to be diversity of a kind that is strictly on management’s terms… which is not really diversity at all.

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