Key Lesson # 1 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?
Key Lesson #1: Know Your Goals and Preferences
Was the 2003 Iraq War a great victory? Saddam Hussain was removed from power in less than a month, which led some to promptly declare the invasion a success.
But this misses the point. The true strategic goals of the invasion should have been (and possibly were at some point) security in the Middle East and the wellbeing of the Iraqi people. And instead of this, the invasion achieved the rise of Al Qaeda and then ISIS, hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and the destabilization of Syria and the region more generally.
Neglecting to properly define and keep in mind strategic goals lie at the heart of many failures. Setting one goal gives focus, yet, a sole objective is a rare luxury for any public sector or policing organization. For example, in policing, you must consider the required trade-offs for policies on stop and search – between the goal short-term crime control benefits (for example, getting weapons of the street) and the long-term goals of ensuring support from communities we need to report crime, give evidence and so on.
All decisions require clarity on the goals being pursued and clarity on which goals are most important. It is only once these factors are clear, after all, that you can use decision science methods to rigorously assess the optimal options among alternatives (even when outcomes are uncertain)
But the truth is that goal setting is much harder than it sounds. It requires clarifying and being honest about competing goals within policing and then finding ways to thrash out the right balance of priorities (and compromises) for each organization and its unique context. In turn, this means balancing political and practical considerations. And it means finding ways to facilitate complex conversations about values, public priorities (from different groups), and evidence. Our observation is that quite often these conversations are seen as ‘too difficult’ not just for policing but for many public sector bodies. And yet, without them, it is very difficult to achieve the genuine collaboration, shared vision and prioritized objectives that can provide the platform for sound strategic and day-to-day decision-making.
Knowing your goals and preferences is just one of seven key lessons that we’ll be sharing with you – You can access the full article of our feature with a subscription to Police Professional here.
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.