Posted: Thursday 30th August 2018
I don’t understand – an accusation levelled at me on a regular basis by my daughter, and usually in response to a request I’ve made. It is also a thought I have quite often when I’m listening to someone speak, reading a lengthy document, looking at a spreadsheet (even if I make good use of the zoom function) or trying to assemble flat-packed furniture.
What I’d like people to understand about me is that I really try to understand just about everything I come across (except the flat packs – these I try and get help with). When I carry out my role for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) which involves looking at the Constabulary’s performance, going through the data they hold about the work that they do to keep local people safe - I am typically asking myself ‘Why?’ as I try to analyse it. I’m seeking to understand not just what has been delivered in terms of ‘performance’, but what is facilitating or hindering delivery. I care about the why and the how, not just the what.
I also want to use that understanding to see improved performance in the future. I’m usually thinking ‘If I am able to understand this, maybe I am able to help’. I am both curious and caring. Curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something and curiosity makes the world what it is today. If there weren’t curious people we would not have evolved to be where we are today. And like my daughter, children are naturally curious, it’s how we grow and learn. Sometimes it seems that this can be lost over time and I think rediscovering it can be hugely beneficial to personal and organisational development.
Seeking to understand what is going on at work and why, is what I see as core to my role in supporting the PCC and her office in understanding the delivery against the priorities the PCC and local people set for the police. This is because I firmly believe that improvement can be sustained when it comes from insight and activity related to that (as opposed to what can appear to be performance improvement but may actually be random/not linked to anything you have done and therefore any continuation is a happy accident and probably temporary).
You can see how all this questioning translates in the PCC’s annual report, which I wrote last month. So behind the facts presented, which show an overall 1% increase in recorded crime and a slight reduction in recorded 999 and 101 calls over the past financial year, I have tried to articulate the context and look at the richer picture. And when I am asked to explain why the demand the police are facing is increasing, statistics of recorded crime would not offer a clear picture. Explaining the changing nature of crime and the increasing complexity of vulnerability would be far more helpful.
Did you know that a typical day within Avon and Somerset sees over 3,000 contacts from people either phoning, reporting online or in person; 116 violent crimes are recorded and 22 people are reported missing? What use is this information? Many threats our communities face are becoming less and less visible. We will have to work harder to explain this to local people and to make them as interested and hopefully as ‘curious’ as I am to understand this ever changing policing picture.
Albert Einstein said “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious,” so if we meet at some point in the future, I hope you will remember this when I start asking you questions – I’ll be trying to understand something and with the motivation of wanting to solve a problem and make something better for someone, for example a better experience for local people or the workforce. I’ll be looking for insight. Well it will either be that, or it might be that I’m having trouble with some furniture assembly instructions.
Karin Takel, Strategic Planning and Performance Officer