Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Less hierarchy, flatter structures

A review from the College of Policing calls for less hierarchy in British police forces, involving a flatter management structure and more teamwork. It rejects what it calls the "heroic model" of leadership, in which officers simply carry out the will of the chief constable, and says that rank hierarchy tends to reduce the willingness of some officers to follow best practice and strive to develop themselves. 


Today Alex Marshall, the College of Policing’s chief executive constable, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there was an "insular attitude" and that chief constables often failed to listen to officers. He said there was a need for the police service to address issues of hierarchy, culture and consistency.

What is true of the police is true of other agencies that work in the field of child protection. If old-style command and control structures are dysfunctional for the police, they will be just as dysfunctional in other agencies. Organisations dealing with complex social problems and safety critical situations need to have organisational designs that are suited to the task. Flatter structures, less hierarchical cultures and managers who see their roles as being supportive of practice, not directive, are essential.

There needs to be recognition that people at the front line are often better placed to take decisions than those up the management tree, who often only have a partial grasp of the facts. It is vital to place an emphasis on practice, allowing practitioners to remain in practice, not having to move into management; to develop, and be rewarded for developing, increased practice skills 

If local authorities children’s services departments in England want to rise to the challenge set by the Department of Education, and to meet ministers claims that they are less flexible and less able to innovate than private or voluntary sector organisations, they need to start building structures and cultures that promote flexibility and innovation. They need to become as at least as ‘flat’ and as flexible and as non-hierarchical as Alex Marshall is calling for the police to be or, even better, more so.