Tips for Implementing Strategies

In this essay:

“There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

– Drucker, 1963

Introducing a new policing strategy or changing strategy after years of doing things in certain ways is challenging for any force. At the highest level, there are three critical steps in changing an approach:

  1. figuring out the problems that most need to be solved
  2. figuring out appropriate strategies to solve those problems
  3. implementing those strategies successfully.

The policing strategies in this toolkit are intended to help with the first two steps. This essay is intended to help with the third step. The first part of this essay covers baseline capabilities needed to plan and implement strategies successfully. The second part covers common barriers to successful implementation and tips to overcome them.

Baseline Capabilities for Planning and Implementation

Implementing new strategies is not a simple task. Core skills from several fields of knowledge— implementation science; project management; change management; program evaluation; and the grouping of security, privacy, and civil rights (equitable policing)—will be useful.

Capabilities from the Science of Implementing Strategies Successfully

Implementation science (National Implementation Research Network, undated) refers to the development of knowledge and methods to implement interventions successfully. The field places a strong emphasis on empirical evidence regarding what is needed and what aids successful implementation. Originally inspired by the need to ensure that health care procedures and practices were implemented properly, application of these concepts has expanded to other fields, including policing. A key part of implementation science is ensuring implementation fidelity, the degree to which the implementation of an intervention matches the intention (see, notably, Carroll et al., 2007). Implementation science methods help evaluators determine whether a new strategy implementation “failed” because the strategy itself was lacking or because the strategy was not implemented correctly (see, for example, Hassell and Lovell, 2015; and Nutley and Homel, 2006).

Core needs for faithful and successful implementations coming out of this field (e.g., McGarrell and Hipple, 2014, as well as the other studies mentioned in the preceding paragraph) include both needs to ensure successful partnerships with stakeholders, and needs to ensure the consistent detection and resolution of problems.

To Help Build Partnerships with Stakeholders (Internal and External), and Obtain Stakeholder Buy-In to New Strategies:

  • Provide ongoing communications with all stakeholders throughout all phases of the strategy implementation effort.
  • Provide channels to receive feedback from stakeholders throughout the effort.
  • Log and act on all feedback received, and get back to the stakeholders on what is being done and why. This does not mean following all recommended actions in the feedback, but it does mean ensuring that the stakeholders are listened to and their inputs are considered throughout.

To Support Consistent Problem-Detection and Problem-Solving:

  • Document the planned strategy changes, answering the question “what policing strategy are we really planning to implement?”
  • Document the strategy changes that were made, answering the question “what policing strategy did we actually implement?” Compare the two for differences and assess whether those differences are large enough that they need to be resolved.
  • Conduct careful data analysis to detect and help resolve problems.
  • Track progress and problems as they are reported. Then track what actions are taken to resolve the problems and what results.

Tip: The in-depth essay on problem-oriented policing presents an improved process for analyzing and resolving problems, along with ways to improve the capabilities to carry out the process. This is generally applicable for detecting and resolving problems in strategy implementation, not just for problem-oriented policing. Readers might wish to review that essay before returning to the implementation tips.

Project Management Capabilities

Because planning and implementing a strategy change is a project, the field of project management (Project Management Institute, undated) directly applies. There are many useful resources on the web regarding general project management. These include online courses from a variety of institutions, and self-help sites associated with consulting or contractors. The resources listed here are a start, including both general references and one covering the management of police resources (Kennedy, 1993).

Suggested Sources on Project Management

Change Management Capabilities

Because strategy changes constitute substantial changes to both a department and the community it serves, the field of change management (PDF) (U.S. Agency for International Development, 2015) also applies. Again, there useful resources on the web, both for general reference and for law enforcement specifically.

Suggested Sources on Change Management

Program Evaluation Capabilities

The field of program evaluation (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Program Performance and Evaluation Office, 2012) provides tools to track progress and diagnose problems, starting with evaluating the intervention’s fidelity.

Suggested Sources on Program Evaluation:

Security, Privacy, and Civil Rights Protections

There is a set of core design attributes that should be included in any implementation—explicit protections for security (specifically, information security for any data that are collected and processed during the intervention), privacy, and civil rights (i.e., equity in policing). Key attributes for information security and privacy protections include the following:

  • Confidentiality protections, such as encryption, security policies, and audits of who used data—and ensuring that those policies are followed—are necessary to ensure that the data are protected from unauthorized disclosures and use.
  • Integrity protections, including strict access controls (passwords, two-factor identification, etc.) and version controls, are necessary to ensure the continued accuracy and reliability of the data.
  • Availability protections, such as data backups, firewalls, and other cybersecurity protections, are necessary to ensure that authorized users have access to the data.
  • A key data privacy concept is data minimization, which can be summarized as follows:
    • If it is not needed, it should not be collected.
    • If no one needs to use it, it should not be accessed.
    • If possible, data should be used in anonymized and/or aggregated forms—this greatly reduces the privacy risks from potentially releasing personally identifying information.
    • If it does not need to be disclosed, it should not be disclosed.
    • If it is no longer needed, it should not be retained.

While this implementation guide does not cover information security and privacy directly, we do note that Wikibooks (undated) maintains a core guide on information security topics, Fundamentals on Information Systems Security.

Regarding civil rights and equitable policing, Eck and Rosenbaum (1994) define two core types of policing equity:

  • Procedural: Police systematically “follow the rules laid down in law and procedures” (p. 46), and follow them uniformly across all areas of the jurisdiction.
  • Resourcing: In carrying out an intervention, policing resources are provided in exact proportion to the need.

    Policing equity protects against two inequitable outcomes. The first is not providing enough resources to properly protect a community, especially those that are socioeconomically disadvantaged and predominantly of color. The second is applying too many resources, resulting in neighborhoods’ overexposure to enforcement.

Agencies might find it useful to review the legitimacy policing strategy guide and seek to ensure that any interventions incorporate procedural justice procedures and protections, as well. Many of the tips for overcoming barriers relate to improving communications with, and involvement of, community stakeholders; these will support the dialogue components of legitimacy policing.

Eleven Common Challenges to Successful Implementation

The following 11 challenges (grouped into three categories) to the successful implementation of new policing strategies are drawn from reviews of studies on policing strategy experiments and from identification of common problems facing organizations attempting to change strategies, as documented in the realms of implementation science, strategic management, change management, and project management.

Lack of Experience in Making Strategy Changes

  1. Expectations: Stakeholder expectations are vague, ambiguous, and/or unreasonable.
  2. Complications and complexities: The new strategy to be implemented is complex, with complicated relationships and dynamics touching many aspects of the department.
  3. Lack of change-management experience: The department does not have recent experience planning and implementing major changes.

Insufficient Time and Other Resources

  1. Insufficient resources: There are not enough resources—funding, hours, attention, or personnel—to maintain ongoing operations and to undertake the new initiative.
  2. Competition for resources: The department is confronting many significant issues and challenges at the same time.
  3. Timing: There is a need to find a middle ground between implementing the change too quickly and having no pressure at all to get the change done.

Internal Organizational Problems

  1. Disruptive change: The change represents a stark shift in strategy for the department and is a major departure from prior practice.
  2. Organizational flexibility and nimbleness: Implementing the strategy requires more and faster responsiveness than the department is typically capable of.
  3. Organizational instability and change fatigue: There has not been stability in the department’s leadership, senior management, or strategies—or in the workforce itself.

Problems with External Relations

  1. Community relations: The department has a strained relationship or troubled history with the community it serves.
  2. Being ‘under siege’: Change management is difficult when individuals feel like they are in the middle of the storm.

It is not assumed that every department will encounter every one of these challenges. However, it is important to review the list and determine which challenges exist, what their implications might be, and how to address them. Challenges on this list can be addressed from one of two perspectives:

  • Reactive: The challenges are addressed as they arise, by which time it could be too late to take actions to mitigate them.
  • Proactive: The possibility of the challenges are anticipated and addressed in advance, with the department able to make choices early to mitigate risks.

In regard to these challenges, it is useful to reflect on them as activities are implemented; watch for them on the horizon; and, at the end of the activity, discuss them and how they were addressed. The lessons learned about these and other challenges can become part of the department’s institutional knowledge and toolkit for future activities and change. The following subsections will briefly discuss each of the challenges and offer tips for addressing them. These suggestions come from our research team’s decades of experience with operational and change management, along with (and aligned with) operational findings from a broad range of prior studies from the management field.

Lack of Experience in Making Strategy Changes

1. Expectations

Stakeholder expectations are vague, ambiguous, and/or unreasonable.


We have seen four types of expectations in our work on organizational planning; we suggest that they be explicitly discussed and that they be deconflicted if necessary by means of collaborative cooperation:

  • Determine what is externally or politically stated.
  • Determine what was formerly planned or stated internally.
    • Discussions between external stakeholders and the agency need to occur, so that these two are not in conflict—including through misunderstandings.
  • Identify what is hoped to happen (upside).
  • Identify what is expected to happen (downside).
    • It is useful to (1) identify major risk factors that will impact whether the upside or downside cases occur and (2) attempt to address the risks in ways that will make the upside more likely.

Expectations should reflect the local situation, not what another department achieved in a different situation.

There should be a set of clear, plain-English goals associated with the expectations. These goals should be in the form of “observe that some indicator about policing outcomes is better in some way" and should follow these guidelines:

  • The indicators should reflect social outcomes—reduced crime of various types, more cases closed, community residents reporting higher confidence in police on surveys, etc. They should not reflect intermediate outputs (number of hours worked, etc.); intermediate output measures can be used to assess whether tasks necessary to improve outcomes are being done appropriately but are not ends in themselves.
  • The indicators should be measurable and should be measured before implementation, during it, and after the activity is in maintenance or ongoing mode.
  • The goals should be phased in over time.

Determine whether it is possible to carry out an intervention that provides a substantial benefit quickly. That will provide evidence of commitment to the objective (if not the belief that an unrealistic expectation can be met) and could go a long way in helping to get buy-in from other stakeholders. That, in turn, could lead to the possibility of assistance from those stakeholders in increasing the likelihood of success for seemingly unrealistic expectations.

Search Terms

Use these terms in internet searches to find updated resources.

  • project management unreasonable expectations
  • logic models (for assistance on setting outcome goals, outcome indicators, outputs and supporting activities, and output indicators)
Suggested Sources

2. Complications and Complexities

The strategy is inherently complex, with complicated relationships and dynamics touching many aspects of the department.

A major policing strategy change is inherently likely to be complex and interrelated with many other moving parts. For example, a new policing strategy might purport to focus only on the way a patrol conducts its work, but implementing such a strategy requires altering work schedules, making special provisions to conform with collective bargaining agreements, adding resources, adding new technologies to assign and monitor the new patrol duties, retraining personnel, and addressing a host of other issues that might collectively be dependent on actions by many people within and outside the department. Agencies will need skills to manage these complexities effectively, starting with the basics of managing complex projects.


The discipline of project management offers tools for iteratively breaking down an implementation strategy into all its component to-dos (notably, the work breakdown structure [Brotherton, Fried, and Norman, 2008]) and sequencing the order in which they need to be done (see network diagramming of tasks).

  • Mapping out environmental risks or complexities that need specific consideration is critical. What are the things that need to happen throughout the department for different components of strategy implementation to occur? What are the critical dependencies—the key things that depend on something else happening for their success? (These can be shown graphically using the referenced network diagrams.) How can these critical paths be identified up front and cleared?

Where possible, try to reduce complexity. What are “nice to haves,” rather than “must haves,” that can potentially be shed? Can interim measures be put in place that accomplish 80 percent of what a more difficult longer-term action would require, and is 80 percent enough? It might be possible to mitigate the potential risk, or it might be necessary to better understand impacts and factor those into planning (expectations and execution plan).

For each of these major complicating issues, a point person will be needed—perhaps even a dedicated or specialized team, depending on how large the issue is. Complexity cannot always be avoided or ignored. Instead, steer into it by dedicating resources to own and troubleshoot key issues.

  • It is best not to trivialize the potential impact of complicating factors and interdependencies or pretend that they can take care of themselves.
Search Terms

Use these terms in internet searches to find updated resources.

  • project management (for core skills)
  • change management high complexity
Suggested Sources
On work breakdown structures and network diagramming
On behavior change
  • Cane, James, Denise O’Connor, and Susan Michie, “Validation of the Theoretical Domains Framework for Use in Behaviour Change and Implementation Research,” Implementation Science, Vol. 7, No. 37, 2012.
  • Michie, Susan, Michelle Richardson, Marie Johnston, Charles Abraham, Jill Francis, Wendy Hardeman, Martin P. Eccles, James Cane, and Caroline E. Wood, “The Behavior Change Technique Taxonomy (v1) of 93 Hierarchically Clustered Techniques: Building an International Consensus for the Reporting of Behavior Change Interventions,” Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 46, No. 1, 2013, pp. 81–95.
  • Michie, Susan, Maartje M. van Stralen, and Robert West, “The Behaviour Change Wheel: A New Method for Characterising and Designing Behaviour Change Interventions,” Implementation Science, Vol. 6, No. 42, 2011.

3. Lack of Change Management Experience

The department does not have recent experience planning and implementing major changes.

The sources at the end of this section link to overall guides on managing major changes. Although the processes and procedures and the change management descriptions included in those sources will be helpful, there is an additional important risk to address. Whenever a strategy is fundamentally new, there will likely be mistakes and misunderstandings as police go through natural trial-and-error in developing new procedures, new relationships, and proficiency with new tools. We provide some tips to shorten and mitigate the errors from navigating learning curves.


Recognize and expect that mistakes will be made and allow for extra time and effort because of them. Expectations about activity success and outcomes also need to account for learning-curve errors. Agencies also need to guard against overacting and overcorrecting.

Try to find others who have implemented similar strategies in similar situations to help with the planning of a specific activity.

  • For example, the Chicago Police Department and Los Angeles Police Department have a standing relationship to help each other plan and implement new strategies and strategic activities, such as district-level crime operations centers.
  • The expertise needed might be in one’s own jurisdiction or might require reaching out and seeking help from another community. Assistance might be at levels ranging from rank-and-file to management, and it might come from outside stakeholders, community leaders, and members of the community. The goal is to learn from their experiences: what worked, what did not work, and what they would suggest in this situation.
  • Ideally, agencies can track who has participated on new initiatives and consciously create a mentor-protégé structure in which decisionmakers can learn from each other. Documenting—and reviewing—lessons learned from past efforts is also helpful.

Be aware of the phenomenon of change fatigue and actively monitor for it and work to counter it. Ideally, change should be limited so that there is not a sense of constant churn and turmoil, but, as noted in prior sections, it might not be possible to pick the timing and nature of changes to a department, and the past cannot be changed. The fact that a department has been through a number of changes in the recent past (or over such a prolonged period of time that nothing feels stable) or is undergoing several changes of different types at once should be acknowledged internally and communicated with external stakeholders who have a say in the department’s fate. Acknowledge the elephant in the room, be aware that change is difficult for both individuals and organizations, and provide a sense of stability by laying out the path forward clearly so that it is predictable and can be anticipated (which can help to minimize feelings of instability).

Search Terms

Use these terms in internet searches to find updated resources.

  • project management differences in small and large projects
  • change management
Suggested Sources
  • Besner, Claude, and Brian Hobbs, “Project Management Practice, Generic or Contextual: A Reality Check,” Project Management Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2008, pp. 16–33. As of May 7, 2018:
  • Bridges, William, and Susan Bridges, Managing Traditions: Making the Most of Change, Boston: Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2017.
    • This is a book-length treatment of core change management practices.
  • U.S. Agency for International Development, Change Management Best Practices Guide: An Additional Help for ADS Chapter 597, Washington, D.C., 2015. As of May 7, 2018:
    • This provides a general introduction to change management, covering some of the most popular change management frameworks.

Insufficient Time and Other Resources

4. Insufficient Resources

There are not enough resources—funding, hours, attention, or personnel—to maintain ongoing operations and to undertake the new initiative.

The agency already does not have sufficient resources; how can it take on another initiative? There are situations in which there is no real choice; either the potential gains from implementing a new policing strategy warrant making the change no matter what, or the political situation requires the change.


The most important activity to be able to deliver with wholly inadequate resources is to do triage. What is the minimum necessary to (1) protect the public from crime, (2) hold offenders accountable, (3) keep officers and the public safe, and (4) respond to incidents and events? Which initiatives would just be nice to have and can be put on hold? For externally imposed activities, what do the imposing policymakers genuinely need as opposed to what would merely be nice?

  • Documenting workflows and activities (see the discussions of work breakdown structures and workflow documentation and management) can help identify (1) what the current activities are and (2) which ones are critical (i.e., necessary for departmental functioning) as opposed to which can be postponed or would be nice to have.

To make triage decisions easier, try to establish a hierarchy of what is important ahead of time—whether one needs to reallocate resources, which efforts would be stopped or suspended first, and where the most resources could come from while doing the least harm. This sort of advance “rainy day planning” can be practiced regularly so that agencies are prepared when they need to implement it.

  • As an example, suppose there was a need to reallocate 15 percent of the budget, manpower, or leadership’s attention to an unforeseen project. Where would these resources come from and how would the reallocation occur?

Be clear and upfront with funders and stakeholders about resource needs, and identify the implications of having or lacking required resources. The second component is critical: Identify clear cause-and-effect relationships and spell them out in detail, including the implications of having or lacking those resources.

  • Do not assume other stakeholders know the consequences—effects and implications that appear obvious will not be as clear to those outside the agency who lack experience.
  • Avoid thinking or speaking in absolutes—it is usually not the case that nothing can be done without additional resources. A more accurate assessment might be: “If we had X more, then we could do Y amount, but if we have half of X, we can only do half of Y, and here is why that is the case.”

Reset the goals and expectations for the activity, and shift the objectives down to what can be done. This is difficult, but at some point, expectations or the views about results will be changed, either during the activity or at the end.

Rather than having to own problems and requirements alone, try to work with elected leaders, the community, and other stakeholders to make others co-owners of the initiatives. These other stakeholders can provide additional resources or help modify expectations. Transparency is key: The community relations tips discussed earlier and throughout many of the strategy guides can help.

Search Terms

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  • project management insufficient resources
  • infeasibility
Suggested Sources

5. Competition for Resources

The department is confronting many significant issues and challenges at the same time.

This is a situation in which there is more than one “number-one priority,” and all of the priorities must be addressed at the same time. In some cases, there might be multiple activities or initiatives the department is attempting to implement at the same time; in other cases, there might be several situations that have all reached a critical point at once—or the situation might involve some combination of both those cases. In such circumstances, agencies might have little discretion about what to deal with simultaneously.

Having a large number of concurrent activities or urgent, crisis-level situations to address increases the risk of (1) diluting leadership and management’s focus and decisionmaking quality, (2) having one activity or situation accidentally affect another in a negative way, (3) creating conflicts for resources when they are needed at the same time, and (4) having trouble figuring causes and effects when outcomes are reviewed.


The following tips presuppose that someone has direction over tasking and resource assignments for each of the competing initiatives.

Identify something to be postponed a bit—not canceled, just delayed. Put a minimum set of resources into the activity or situation (rather than simply shelve it) so that it can be actively monitored.

  • If all activities or issues are competing for attention at the same time, all might fail. Thus, it is paramount to reduce the number of concurrent activities and the inevitable demands they create on attention and resources.

Have the first and second levels of management (those closest to the front lines) be involved in only one major “new” initiative at the same time. By implication, this also implies that frontline units are also involved in only one new policing strategy initiative at a time.

Do a joint review of all major initiatives and emergent situations to discuss primary and secondary resources, requirements, and upcoming activities; this should be done weekly or fortnightly via a quick teleconference of a joint initiative working group. This is necessary to identify any major resource conflicts and timing issues, and it needs to be done in a group setting involving the key decisionmakers in the department. The planning horizon should focus on what will occur by two, four, six, and eight weeks in the future that will allow minor shifting of activities within or across efforts—if something cannot be delayed completely, minor shifting and alignment across efforts might be possible to minimize conflicts and confusion.

Impacts to community interaction and engagement must be handled carefully; perceived changes in priority or focus will send messages to the community and might create stakeholder fatigue and frustration. The responsible parties should provide an upfront explanation of the delays to occur, why they are occurring, and when communities can expect progress to resume.

Search Term

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  • managing multiple concurrent activities
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6. Timing

There is a need to find a middle ground between implementing the change too quickly and having no pressure at all to get the change done.


Have a normal or recommended procedure for undertaking a major change, such as a shift in strategy, but also have an abridged version that cuts down the process as much as possible for taking calculated and well-understood risks. It is better to have an abridged procedure outlined and ready to go than to wing it.

Depending on the type of change, you can sometimes attempt to have a 24-hour period between the rush decision being identified and the need for a decision about what to do next. Use this period to think the situation through and get things organized. However, there are situations where waiting periods are not advised or desired.

Do a quick environmental scan for the other issues in this section during your planning phase to identify the major risks and issues that might arise, and prepare to set up appropriate responses—e.g., determining what experience exists and, if it is not good enough, starting the process to get some help.

Consciously and explicitly implement slow advancement or “shelving” of plans for all other activities so that other work is reduced in a controlled and orderly fashion.

Assign the best, and not the average, resources to key tasks for implementing the change successfully.

Search Term

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  • project management pressure to quickly implement
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Internal Organizational Problems

7. Disruptive Change

The change represents a stark shift in strategy for the department and is a major departure from prior practice.

This issue is aligned with the issues of scale and scope and of lack of prior experience, but it is also distinct, reflecting the challenging issue of being faced with a change in strategy at a scale, scope, and nature that is entirely unprecedented. There could be an additional challenge of the new strategy being in direct opposition to past practice.


The tips outlined here are in addition to the scale, scope, and change management tips mentioned elsewhere.

Expect more and different types of mistakes than when undertaking internal activities involving only the internal workings of the department. More than several attempts will likely be needed to understand how to implement a fundamental strategic change. Do not be surprised by the learning and do not assume that the cause-and-effect relationships are fully clear after the first weeks or months.

Create a long-term advisory team from each community sector or area and meet regularly to discuss the ongoing situation (activity independent), providing inter- and intra-activity familiarity and learning—what to do and how to do it. Have a standing committee that can be called upon to assist with ongoing maintenance and support of initiatives.

Monitor and be wary of morale. Major changes can be harder on a workforce than minor ones. In addition to tracking and monitoring workforce perceptions, work to identify points of anxiety or confusion so that you can address them, and ask for and use feedback from personnel at all levels of the department.

Search Term

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  • project management disruptive innovation
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8. Organizational Flexibility and Nimbleness

Implementing the strategy requires more and faster responsiveness than the department is typically capable of.

Any large agency can be like a proverbial battleship: It takes much effort and coordination to get under way and up to speed, and it requires lots of time and space if a significant change of direction is needed. On the other hand, if the process to plan and implement a strategy takes too long (requires too many meetings, requires too much administrative paperwork, creates too many areas that appear subject to negotiation, etc.), then momentum, interest, and motivation could suffer. It is also possible that the conditions (including internal and external backing) that warranted the initial justification might have changed by the time the new policing strategy is ready for launching in the field.


One option is to create a special projects group that can pilot new activities with greater autonomy and a minimum of red tape and bureaucracy. Various departments around the United States, for example, have historically had rapid acquisition and fielding mechanisms to provide equipment in response to pressing operational needs that cannot wait for traditional government procurement.

Another possibility is to have specific workflows documented within the department to plan and implement new initiatives. The department should have written plans for implementing major changes, mustering the necessary resources, and incorporating known essential elements for success, as well as identifying any known obstacles.

A third suggestion is to have a yearly workshop to simulate the motions of rolling out a major strategy change each year. This can be a one- or two-day activity with all key decisionmakers participating. This is similar in spirit to any training exercise, such as practicing a response to a major incident.

As difficult as it might seem to set aside time for such simulations, we believe the payoff is more than worth the price because the major players (1) will know of each other’s existence and roles, (2) will have worked through the major steps, and (3) will have identified the major pitfalls and potential approaches to addressing them. The results of this exercise can provide key updates to the workflows documented.

Search Term

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  • project execution flexible and responsive organizations
Suggested Sources
On general steps for documenting workflows (also known as “business processes”), managing them, and improving them over time

9. Organizational Instability and Change Fatigue

There has not been stability in the department’s leadership, senior management, or strategies—or in the workforce itself.

The department’s organizational structure has been analyzed and rearranged, or the workforce is in flux, with infusions of new and unseasoned personnel and loss of long-time veterans. There also might have been frequent whipsawing between previous strategic initiatives. When such changes are frequent or perceived to be a constant, there could be fatigue over the idea of change itself, leading to organizational fatigue in implementing any additional strategy changes.


Even more mistakes and miscues are likely during a period of yet another transition. Communication is critical as new personnel throughout the organization get to know, understand, and ultimately trust one another, including developing relationships between management and the rank and file.

Assume that expectations might need to be managed a bit during this period and that progressive or phased expectations should be used.

Where possible, delay and slow down activities in the strategy transition, which can hopefully create some spare capacity and time to deal with transition issues and allow the department to address the fewest number of changes possible at any one time.

Even with major personnel changes, some key individuals likely remain. Find and leverage individuals in the department who are well-respected and have been with the department over time, regardless of position or title. They can provide a stable presence and valuable perspective on the past.

Search Term

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  • change fatigue
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Problems with External Relations

10. Community Relations

The department has a strained relationship or troubled history with the community it serves.

Community relations are important for the policing profession as a whole, to the extent that a panel of policing experts recently identified the issue of maintaining trust and legitimacy with the public to be the top-rated priority for agencies (Hollywood et al., 2017). Past events, or events in a different part of the country, can have a major effect on how a department and its frontline personnel are viewed by the community they serve and interact with daily. While there are some policing strategies that are 100-percent self-contained within the department, most policing strategies are dependent on participation by community leaders and members of the public.


It is far more constructive to focus on issues within the department’s own control, accept 100-percent responsibility for these issues, and express a desire to improve and move forward together. But this also means the agency should communicate clearly with the community where the department’s capabilities start and end and where the community also needs to be involved.

It is useful to begin with the assumption that the community and ordinary members of the public know what is happening in their area, why it is happening, and what might be done to reduce the problems. Recall that a major finding of our problem-oriented policing analysis was that the department needs to talk with community members to identify what the crime problems are and how they might best be solved.

  • When meeting with community leaders and members, make it a true discussion and two-way communication, not a one-way presentation and description of what is going to be done. Engage community leaders and members in solution design, including what will be done and how. Make the community leaders and members part of the solution from the beginning; do not just inform them at the end when everything has been decided.

Take time and care before setting the first expectations, sharing objectives, and making promises. The first impression will likely be the one that sticks, and any shortfall will not be perceived in a good light. The traditional standard of underpromise and overdeliver is one to heed.

Search Term

Use this term in internet searches to find updated resources.

  • law enforcement improving community relations
Suggested Source
  • U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Services Toolkit for Policing; Importance of Police-Community Relationships and Resources for Further Reading, Washington D.C., undated. As of May 7, 2018:

11. Being Under Siege

Change management is difficult when individuals feel like they are in the middle of the storm.

In this situation, the agency is faced with a figurative storm of intense pressures: A department might be under pressure to reduce violent crime, strengthen defenses against a terrorist threat, improve community relations following a controversial officer-involved shooting, cut budgets, reduce personnel, and implement the provisions of a consent decree all at the same time. Managing change in the middle of a storm is perhaps one of the hardest challenges, and there are few strategies or techniques that will work.


Useful tips here are similar to those from the first challenge: It is always easier if agencies can put one or more of the situations on temporary hold. We recognize this might be easier said than done, but if it is possible to put outstanding issues into sequence and address them individually in turn, chances of success will increase.

Crisis can create opportunity, enabling individuals and organizations to make difficult but necessary changes and decisions to overcome a status quo that is no longer acceptable.

  • What policies and procedures are too rigid for the situation and which ones should be adapted? Think of the organization and its policies as if they were earthquake-proof structures on a fault line—rigid ones are not good; those with shock absorbers and some dampening device to separate the structural elements will sustain the shock waves and survive. A combination of rigidity and flexibility is necessary to withstand a storm.
  • Do a self-awareness exercise—what is the agency doing that might make success more difficult? Standard practices in crisis resolution include keeping lines of communication open; being honest and transparent about goals and methods and what the barriers, obstacles, and resource constraints are; making friends and co-opting other stakeholders as allies and partners; prioritizing ruthlessly, and being flexible. If the agency is doing the opposite of any of these practices, it might well be making matters worse.

Agencies can attempt to engage some of the parties affected and involve them in the problem-solving required. For example, problem-oriented policing and focused deterrence strategies both depend on local community participation. Transparency and collaborative efforts are the best policy, ensuring that the parties know what is being done, why and how it is being done, and what the expected results are. This might not eliminate a conflict altogether, but it might reduce its intensity.

If possible, attempt to dedicate resources, such as a single lead with “ownership” responsibility, to each major challenge or pressure. The dedicated resources will need to understand the issues, the triggers, the history, and possible middle ground.

Search Terms

Use these terms in internet searches to find updated resources.

  • change management while under siege
  • crisis management
  • crisis management best practices
Suggested Sources
  • Kirschenbaum, Alan, and Carmit Rapaport, “Organizations Under Siege: Innovative Adaptive Behaviors in Work Organizations,” in Nino Tsereteli, ed., Vulnerability Analysis and GIS Based Seismic Risk Assessment Georgia Case, New York: Springer, 2014.
  • Teodorescu, Horia-Nicolai, Alan Kirschenbaum, Svetlana Cojocaru, and Claude Bruderlein, eds., Improving Disaster Resilience and Mitigation: IT Means and Tools, New York: Springer, NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security, 2014.


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