Jan 8, 2009

RCMP leadership

An interesting article this morning about the leadership at the RCMP in Quebec. While I have yet to see the full report, some interesting information emanates from this article:
  • All of the information emanates from the employees. It seems like the researchers did a form of 360-degree evaluation, where they asked all sorts of questions to the employees, in order to get a real portrait of their life at work.
  • Competition for promotion gets in the way of real work. I was asked recently if competition in the workplace was a good idea or not. I think most of the time it is, but there are instances where it is not. For example, if it gets in the way of corporate objectives. Another is if there are limited resources available and too many people are competing for the same resource. With the RCMP, it seems to be the case on both these counts.

    Without knowing how things work internally, it looks like the criteria for success are incorrect. They seem to be pointing to personal victories instead of victories that benefit the whole of the organization. Hence the complaints that "careerism" is favoured.

  • Lack of training for senior officials. This one, unfortunately, is rampant. It isn't something that is specific to the RCMP. Too many senior executives do not have, nor take, the time to properly develop and update their people skills. They often lift their nose at the concept, thinking that the bottom line is the most important part of the business, and that people should just understand this and follow along. Men, especially, are guilty of this.

    What they often fail to realize is that the human aspect of a business is often its most important and costly. Just take a look at what is happening at the Detroit Big Three. Our skills with people are constantly put to the test and what used to work, may not work as well today. In the case of the RCMP, it seems that conflict management does not work properly at all, since there is no crackdown on dubious behaviours.

  • Image polishing at all costs. According to its employees, the RCMP seems more interested in the image it projects than what is really affecting its operations. Managing one's image is fine, but at some point in time, you can no longer tame such a beast. Madoff tried it and failed. Satyam tried and failed. Now the RCMP seems to be failing also. At some point, to re-establish an image, you have to eliminate the previous one. Trying to hide issues at all costs, especially in a government agency, can only bring about charges of lack of transparency.

    I don't advocate full disclosure at all levels. However, given the choice between addressing a serious issue that can portray an unflattering image in the media, and sweeping an issue under the rug in the hope that it will disappear, I recommend the former.

  • Management doesn't listen and doesn't have a clue. Once again, that is not limited to the RCMP. It is amazing how often I will speak to the employees of a client who tell me of all sorts of issues that they see in the company, yet when I speak to the senior executives, they tend to dismiss it as "employees who are never happy." While there is some of that, when the same issues get reported over and over again, by multiple employees of varying responsibility levels, it's time to listen and act.
In another article, the RCMP made a list of resolutions for 2009. Many of them had to do with operations and infrastructure. But if they want to keep on "getting their man", let's they don't forget the human side.


  1. The key problem with an organization like the RCMP is that you can't just recruit people into mid-level or senior positions, because all the key jobs are occupied by policemen. The challenge then becomes selection, succession, education, and, yes, training. This is similar to what the military faces, but it has to invest enormous sums in training and exercising military forces, as well as regular personnel reassignments, in order to create the necessary competencies.

    Richard Martin

  2. Richard,

    Thank you for the comment. After writing this original piece, I had an opportunity to speak to a retired RCMP detective, and we discussed at length about the internal issues.

    The selection and succession processes were, indeed, big issues. He also felt that the military-like hierarchy was partly to blame for some of the systemic issues.