The dichotomy of bean counting management


You may be able to count the actual number of beans in a tincan however; no two tins carry the exact same beans and each one has beans of varying size and quality.

Irrespective of the actual size of that tin, or which retail outlet it was sourced from, any comparison is not a like for like or exact science.

Equate this to the predominant management style within the police service (and much of the remaining public sector). A structure that has for many years to some extent been dictated to by government and you see; a great deal more dialectical thinking and approach to the issues are actually required.

Those who have browsed by here before will know, I tend to discuss this very issue with regular occurrence. What I perhaps don’t do is, explain my viewpoint with sufficient clarity and academic credence. My argument is usually based upon personal observations and experience and although totally relevent, many find it too easy to dismiss my views by saying; “where is your actual evidence?”

It appears that the word of an individual is no longer relevent to many who disagree with it, unless of course, you can pad that viewpoint out with quotes and observations from others more academically eminent than yourself. Well here goes!

For several years now the police service has operated under a management regime that chases government and senior management team targets. These targets are formulated by and based upon recorded statistics which in turn, are often manipulated and skewed to aid the meeting of those targets. Much evidence to support the latter claim and explain the details can be found at The Thin Blue Line.

Within the site you will find the author, who is also a vastly experience retired police officer, has spent a considerable amount of time and effort analysing British Crime Statistics and the management of crime recording. He has also produced a great deal of evidence to support the arguments for changes to police management.

A more recent supporter of the call for change, but no less qualified to comment (and probably more academically so) is Inspector Guilfoyle  a West Midlands Police Inspector. Simon is in charge of seven neighbourhood policing teams and a proactive team covering the North East area of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands.

In a recent article entitled Crime In Progress: The Impact Of Targets On Police Service Delivery’ Simon looks at the effect of numerical targets in public services and fully explains the argument against them and more importantly asks, what is ‘good performance’ and how should it be measured?

Simon’s article is well worth a read, especially for anyone who has an interest in the problem and genuinely wants to understand the predicament police officers find themselves in, under this type of management.

The Home Office has previously defined ‘good performance’ in the police service as; “A combination of doing the right things (priorities), doing them well (quality) and doing the right amount (quantity)”. Although the definition was produced in 2008, the ‘bean counting’ departments designed to measure good performance started to appear and proliferate some years earlier.

However, it wasn’t until more recently that many forces added a Quality Assurance (QA) aspect to that bean counting. In addition, many of those responsible for the QA work had, by reason of poor training or limited police experience, very little cognisance of what actually constituted a ‘quality’ piece of police work.

Business analysts were hurriedly drafted in from ACME Widget Production PLC, and other such private sector organisations, to tell the police managers how well they were performing. And more importantly, create extensive reports, spreadsheets, pie charts and Powerpoint presentations to substantiate the worth of both themselves and the lack lustre managers they were supporting.

This in turn has created a bureaucratic monster,one that needs to be fed with facts and figures at every opportunity. A self-perpetuating monster which has grown out of all proportion to the task, and I might add, at no small expense to the tax paying public. The consequence of all this bean-counting is;  ‘measuring’ the job now actually appears to be more important than physically doing it.

It really doesn’t matter how many beans you’ve got, how you cook them or indeed how much you paid for them in the first place, if they all taste shite, and give you indigestion or make you bilious, what really is the bloody point?

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