Key Lesson # 7 from Decision Science: a New Resource for Police Leaders. This lesson is an excerpt and you can download the full guide here.
Police performance depends on millions of decisions – at the frontline and in the board room. Can the sector strengthen its decision-making muscles by harnessing insights from decision sciences?
Lesson #7: Actively Manage Your Decision-Making Environments
The series of lessons we have shared in this series are partial glimpses into the vast field of decision-making sciences. And the reality is that to improve decision-making in policing, we can’t simply to understand a few key decision-making concepts and nuggets of evidence. Rather, decision-making needs to be viewed as a critical organisational capability, and we need to develop our decision-making approaches at every level of policing organisations.
A more rigorous approach to any individual high value decision or strategy can, of course, be helpful. For multi-million pound decisions, a properly structured decision-making process supported by proper analytical skills and subject matter knowledge can save a fortune and much more effectively support improvement for the public.
But while a one-off process can show what a robust decision-making exercise looks like, this will not create the organisational infrastructure that police services need to become truly decisive and effective. For that, we need to build effective decision-making habits bit by bit. We need:
- Good governance that places decisions with the people best placed to choose well
- A rich array of data and information, drawn from both internal sources and open sources and harnessing both quantitative and qualitative insight
- Feedback and measurement systems that truly inform decision-makers on the consequences of their decisions
- New processes for engaging communities in decision-making and build police legitimacy
- The ability to automate routine decisions, freeing up officers time for where their expertise are most needed
- New ways of appraising business cases, managing projects and assessing performance
- Enhanced meeting management disciplines and group problem solving models
Decision-making errors are, after all, made by organisations, not just people. Former South Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, match commander on the tragic day of the Hillsborough disaster that resulted in 96 deaths, admitted he had “limited knowledge” of the role and that he probably “wasn’t the best man for the job on the day”. Mr Duckenfield was criticised for his poor decision-making but acquitted of gross negligence manslaughter last November after evidence at his trial showed that poor decisions dating back years by many people had contributed to the tragedy.
One of the key insights from studies of human decision-making over the years is, in fact, that individual decisions are powerfully shaped by the circumstances that decisions are made in. So we need to think about the decision-making context and slowly reshape our policing organisations to support better decisions – just as we need to reshape the public sphere to discourage criminal decisions.
This won’t happen overnight. But the steps required for better decision-making – improved governance, information management, skills and so forth – are already being taken by many policing organisations. And there are an increasing number of simple methods and technology tools that can help.
Amid intense scrutiny, now is the ideal time to accelerate progress. A sharper focus on decision-making can provide confidence to police leaders and the public that critical policy and operational decisions are robust. And appreciating that decision-making is a critical capability for modern policing organisations creates the opportunity to dramatically improve results for the public.
This is a version of an article produced for Police Professional.
You can download the full guide complete with all 7 key lessons for police leaders below.