The need to increase productivity across the police service in England and Wales (within the constraints of a decreasing budget) will require police and crime commissioners and their respective chief constables to ensure that business processes are as efficient and effective as possible through adopting business process improvement as part of their ongoing efforts to increase value for money.
Such challenges therefore provide significant opportunities for researchers in the business fields of human resources and operations management to reflect on current strategic change initiatives across the police service and to engage with incremental operational change opportunities within police forces. The focus of this research project is therefore to look at the contribution that human resources and operations research can make through the lens of a ‘lean systems thinking’ approach to policing, with a particular focus on its dependence on progressive HRM policies and practices within the police service.
Unfortunately, much of the HRM literature supporting lean implementation focuses upon translating business process techniques into short term improvements realised from isolated improvements, compared to long term strategic changes, and established changes in perceptions (Eldridge et al. 2006, Vest and Gamm 2009). Without considering how values and beliefs have changed, attention focuses on changes in operational practices, compared to the transformation of an organisation that can sustain change in the long term.
While short term cost savings may be impressive, without embedding new, and revised values and beliefs within those affected, improvements are likely to be short lived until behaviours revert to pre-intervention levels. This effectively represents ‘developing a (sub) culture that creates the involvement of everyone in the organization which is critical for the implementation of the lean philosophy’ (Radnor and Walley, 2008: 14). However, as Bititci et al. (2006) illustrate in their longitudinal study of performance measurement and organisational culture, cultural change is a gradual process. De Leeuw and van der Berg (2011) provide further insight, in terms of managerial support developing operator understanding, promoting motivation and ultimately improving performance. However, such processes requires the sustained support of management to both maintain measurement systems and support operators in using them, which short term lean interventions do not account for (Barton, 2013).
This is recognised by Barton and Barton, 2011 with respect to developing the UK police workforce. Here the importance of effective HR practices for influencing employee attitudes and improving police performance is seen as central to police reform. In order to achieve this Flanagan (2008) makes the case for a robust system of HR management running throughout the Police Service viewed as necessary to ensure that strategic manpower objectives are met. This should be seen as particularly important within an organisation such as the police where discretionary behaviour, sometimes referred to as organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) can have such an important part to play in maintaining the confidence and trust of the public. The more effective internal HR practices become, particularly in the areas of management and ‘leadership’ (particularly of front line officers) then the greater the likelihood they will be able to influence appropriate employee behaviours and attitude that encourages public trust and confidence in the police. This can be further supported through the adoption of a lean approach to the operational management of the police service in England and Wales.
The purpose of the research project is four-fold:
1. To analyse the extent to which police forces in England and Wales have adopted a ‘lean management’ philosophy to effect change and reform their organisations.
2. To capture police officers perceptions of the nature of ‘lean’ within the police service and to assess their commitment and engagement to the process.
3. To establish the extent of variation across police forces in terms of how HRM is perceived, and the effect of such variation on police officer attitudes and performance.
4. To provide research-informed evidence for senior police officers and other relevant policy bodies about the role that HRM in embedding a ‘lean’ philosophy within police forces.
For informal enquiries about this project, please contact: Professor Harry Barton: [email protected]