High-Flyers in Modern Organisations

This is an interesting article:

Senior cop Maggie Blyth is set to take command of all officers in Portsmouth – despite having only put on a uniform a year ago.

As the city’s district commander, she will be leading scores of officers who have climbed their way up the ranks and garnered years of experience on the beat.

Uh-huh.

Yet Supt Blyth only made her first arrest in the last few months after being handpicked for what’s known as the direct-entry scheme.

Ah.

Since putting on the uniform, she has been getting ‘full exposure’ to the streets of Portsmouth, making arrests at alcohol-fuelled violence and tackling anti-social behaviour.

A veritable baptism of fire.

Supt Blyth became a warranted officer in November last year, after a tough six-month process to get on the course between February and September last year.

Tough, eh? We’ll revisit that in a minute.

Transformed from a civilian to warranted officer in about a year, Supt Blyth knew she would be facing questions over her credibility, even though she has decades of experience in the criminal justice system.

‘During that time I had a lot of questions, I think first and foremost was credibility,’ she told The News.

Indeed. So how did she respond to these questions over her credibility?

‘Policing is very much based on working your way up through the ranks. I knew I would be managing a workforce that had never had a senior manager who had not come through the ranks.

Right, but how did you convince them you were the right person for the job?

‘A lot of the six months was taking to the police officers and other professionals about what the concerns would be.

That took six months? Finding out what might concern rank and file police officers when their chief is a complete greenhorn? A few paragraphs before we were told this was a tough course. It sounds more like a talking shop.

‘I came on quite prepared for the good and the bad for what I might find.

And what did you find?

‘I went in with my eyes open – and I must say I was really, really welcomed in Hampshire.’

You found you were very popular. Sorry, but couldn’t we hear about some of the concerns over your credibility? Or was everyone told to shut up and get with the programme?

Putting on her uniform for the first time was ‘life-changing’, she says, transforming her into a warranted officer of the crown.

Alas, we’re drifting further away from the topic of your credibility.

She says: ‘It was a really big significant life change for me, it’s still very much a way of life. It’s wearing uniform but becoming a warranted officer and the responsibility that you get with that is different from being a civilian.

And further still. She seems more interested in talking about her feelings than addressing concerns over her lack of experience.

Now Supt Blyth is looking forward to taking over in January, having completed stints on response and patrol – answering 999 calls – along with placements on neighbourhood patrols – which Supt Blyth calls the ‘bedrock of policing’, and investigations.

Stints. I’ll come back to that later.

She says: ‘I’m really looking forward to working with partner agencies across Portsmouth and working together, and working with the team I have in place within policing in Portsmouth.’

She is hoping to take on board the experience gained from the frontline during the training scheme – and go back out with officers while in post as district commander.

She says: ‘I was working with officers at a frontline level and that was really interesting. I was able to go back to my colleagues and those managers above me.’

Partner agencies…working together…take on board…frontline level. Somebody took home a copy of the Powerpoint presentation and memorised it, didn’t they?

Her first arrest also brought home her new powers as an officer. She says: ‘That was a new duty for me, arresting somebody and realising the impact of taking someone’s liberty.

Felt good, I bet.

Supt Blyth, a mother-of-three who is expecting her fourth grandchild soon, was assessed while on placements.

Who says motherhood is an impediment to a full-blown career! Take that, glass ceiling!

Okay, what we’re seeing above is absolutely typical of how most large, modern organisations are run these days. First you need to decide what your high-flyer looks like, and for many organisations being female is highly desirable if not essential. In the case of Portsmouth police, her being a mother and grandmother was probably a bonus in their eyes, too (as it was, no doubt, for the local criminals: if the bobby making their first arrest is a grandmother of three, then we can probably assume they have the run of the place). Next, you need to fast-track them into a senior position without delay, putting them through the absolute bare minimum of training necessary to deflect the inevitable criticism from the 95% of the organisation who are not deemed high-flyers. This is where “stints” come in.

There was a time when those seeking the higher echelons of an organisation would have to demonstrate both competence and time served. The former requirement was dropped some time ago in favour of blind obedience to one’s superiors, but at least they would be expected to do the necessary time. But the modern organisation has an image to project and diversity quotas to fill, and can’t hang around for years waiting for its golden boys and girls to obtain knowledge through experience. Instead they’re sent on a whirlwind tour of the organisation, spending barely a few weeks in one department before moving onto the next, so that at the end of the period the individual knows just enough about each part to be able to interfere and fuck things up once they’re in charge. Humility is in short supply among a modern high-flyer.

Anyone objecting to what is happening is told in no uncertain terms to shut up and stay on-message. Those who fail to heed the warnings are subject to enormous pressure from the surrounding management along with dark threats over their future career and continued employment, such that everyone falls into a silence, the sort which would make a high-flyer assume they are “really welcomed” by whichever department they’re foisted on that week.

All of this ties into what I said in this post, that pretty soon the smartest people, particularly ambitious young men, will not even bother joining large organisations and instead set up on their own to feed off the bloated carcasses of those who railroad grandmothers with one year’s service into the top job. In fact, I have a friend doing pretty much that. He is a rather large man with a bushy beard and tattoos and has a colourful history of mercenary work in Iraq before joining the security team of a prominent Russian billionaire. He has since set up his own security company and, from what I can tell, does rather well doing jobs the police used to do, plugging the gaps when they withdrew from law enforcement and became a branch of the social services. It’s not hard to see how doing this sort of work is more attractive than joining the police. His idea of diversity is ensuring you have several means of maiming people at your disposal at any given time.

I’d advise any smart young man about to graduate to get a firm understanding of what sort of chap he is and take a good look at the organisations trying to recruit him. Just have a look at their website and graduate brochure, that’ll be enough. Certainly the police Twitter feeds tell me everything I need to know about the state of the various forces in the UK, and this latest story from Portsmouth didn’t surprise me one bit. This is the new normal.

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29 thoughts on “High-Flyers in Modern Organisations

  1. The other thing here is that this organisation happens to be the Old Bill, so how the hell is this diminutive copper supposed to be capable of feeling a villains collar?

    The picture in the article show her to be smaller than that other useless bird, then I seen a shot of her on the beat with another feeble looking male copper. She was up to his shoulder height with her hat on and that is being generous. I could easily knock her over, when I was a young villain on her manor I could psychologically terrorize her and put her on a desk job for the rest of her career without even striking a blow.

    A Traffic Warden maybe.

  2. Even if the transformation of UK law enforcement is as dire as Tim believes, there is no way this kind of promotion isn’t widely resented among the rank and file, and especially among the force’s veterans (some of whom are likely women, no?) who have put the time in.

  3. Some of the newer and more enterprising universities might like to set up a new degree course: M.A. in High Flying. It could have modules on “Handling the Media” (including the all-important use of social media to make an impact); “Self Promotion in Everyday Life”; “Creative Use of Statistics”; “Networking”; and “Creative Use of Employment Contracts and Redundancy Agreements”.

  4. Your friend sounds like my type of chap, always good money to be made if you can combine brains with a capacity for educating people in behavior.

  5. It’s hopeless to say that all senior coppers must have started as PCs and laboriously worked their way up. None of the armed forces in the world uses that model, as far as I know, so why must a police force? Hell, it wasn’t that long ago that it was common for UK Chief Constables to be retired army officers with no policing experience at all. It’s not clear to me that they did as bad a job as the modern up-from-the-ranks Chief Constables.

    On the other hand, to skimp on training and experience is also foolish – one year seems awfully slight for someone becoming a Superintendent.

    A balance must be struck: the problem is that those charged with striking that balance have quite other things in mind.

  6. “She says: ‘It was a really big significant life change for me, it’s still very much a way of life. It’s wearing uniform but becoming a warranted officer and the responsibility that you get with that is different from being a civilian.”

    Stupid bint doesn’t even know that police officers are civilians. Can’t learn everything in six months, even your basic legal status.

  7. All she has to memorise are two slogans: “I take full responsibility” and “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family”. If she can manage that she is in for the duration regardless of the severity or frequency of her fuckups.

    Anyway, expect a surge in Twitter policing in Portsmouth and a surge in actual crime affecting actual people.

  8. She ticks the relevant boxes – a female & talks Newspeak. Talent, intelligence & training are secondary to these more important attributes.

  9. “A Traffic Warden maybe.”

    Your being generous. She is, without doubt, a lollipop lady.

  10. I have heard of women such as these being described as ‘Power Skirts’. I think it’s a fairly good description. They are very keen on the power, not at all keen on any of the realities and responsibilities.

  11. All she has to memorise are two slogans: “I take full responsibility”

    Good heavens, no! That’s not the way of the modern manager at all! The phrase to be uttered when presiding over an absolute catastrophe of their own making is: “Lessons have been learned”, after which they carry on as before.

  12. This scheme is just about getting more women to the top. And it will lead to more of the sort of “B” ark public sector types involved in things like chairing child protection boards (mostly, people who do fuck all).

    The private sector mostly went past the “if you can manage X you can manage Y”. They realised that maybe to be a retail CEO, you had to have decades of retail experience and preferably in retail that wasn’t too far distant (like the CEO of WH Smith coming from Argos).

  13. She’d be advised to develop lesbianic tendencies to make herself truly invulnerable (similar to Cressida Dick – she of the Jean Charles De Menezes shooting fame).

    A new term needs to be created – not leader as this implies that the holder of the title can actually lead and presumably inspire the underlings. Token might be a good one; something that represents something else like a milk token, a token in a board game etc. We could further play with this concept and invent the word Tokenism. Oh, wait …

  14. Beyond a certain point, I don’t think mere time served makes much difference – someone with 25 years of service towards the bottom of the ladder has pretty much seen the same stuff, over and over again, as someone with 10 years of service.

    But a year is silly, because you have not “seen it all before” after a year. A lot of stuff that crops up semi-regularly you will never have seen in that time, and some relatively common things you may only have dealt with once or twice. Your professional judgement in these situations is therefore going to be unconfident and largely uninformed.

    When you are getting towards the top of the tree in an organisation, your organisation is going to demand organisational things of you. Talk fluent blandspeak to the media. Talk fluent managementspeak to strategy meetings and oversight committees. Talk fluent diversityspeak during recruitment drives. Show some understanding of the necessary accounting and make tough calls about staffing and resources. But these aren’t generally aspects of your role that the people below you care about, except insofar as it affects them.

    People below you do care about how you grok the operational stuff. You might not come down to the coal-face and muck in, though they might prefer you if you did from time to time. They do, however, require that you understand how the coal-face works. Policies and priorities that you set, and resourcing decisions you make, will impact their ability to do their jobs. Do you really understand what effects your choices will have? Worse still, even if your underlings are largely autonomous, some operational decisions are going to work their way up the chain of command and you are going to have to make them. They won’t be the easy choices either. It’s the big calls, the tough calls, where there’s no obvious right answer and serious potential consequences attached to either course of action, and where nobody under you has the expertise, clout or internal political cover to decide on.

    If the person at the top does not have the reserves of experience that can hone your good judgment in tricky cases, then your underlings are stuffed – and they’ll know it. When the person in the chain of command who gets to make these decisions is the one least qualified to do so, who would want to be an underling with their own prospects of further promotion apparently wiped out by the presence of these fast-track whizz-kids? Particularly if they think that some major management decisions are going to be disastrous and are suspicious that said underlings are going to be the ones made to carry the can. Doubly so if these are life and death decisions, and you’re in one of those roles where you can’t be certain it isn’t going to be your life …

  15. All I can think about is the absolutely devastating effect that this is going to have on the lads and lassies on Old Tricks and Midsomer Murders.

  16. So it’s like the MBA*, only without having to do the MBA any more.

    *: master of bugger all.

  17. MyBurningEars on October 4, 2017 at 12:36 am
    Spot on!
    Add to that, that the individuals whom you describe will only warm the top seat for a couple of years, will implement a few CV enhancing changes and move on before their success or failure can be determined, to be replaced by another of their ilk.

  18. I noticed this several – four? – decades ago when I was a buyer of audio gear for a chain.

    The people above us buyers used to be ex-buyers, with experience and knowledge in the various categories of product. You could go to them seeking advice about the very knowledge you used every day in doing your job.

    Then, American business must have read a new book, because we started to see, instead, professional managers. No longer did our bosses have knowledge about our product, about our industry, or about the people in the industry. They were MBA-types, who were trained to develop “metrics”, and to discern “baselines”, and to make marvelous reports about them.

    It was our loss, and our employer’s loss. I feel for these cops – it’s the end of feeling like your boss is a smarter, much-better-trained version of you.

  19. @bobby b

    Nicely put. It’s nice to believe your boss is a font of information who actually understands your role and may even be able to help you do it better. It’s horrible to feel like your boss has no understanding of your role, that you’re on your own when it comes to useful advice, yet your non-comprehending boss is the one who is going to be somehow judging your performance despite their own ignorance.

    @a different James
    One supposed benefit of promoting the talented early is that it gives their career more time at the top where they can make a bigger difference, and less time at the bottom where they have least impact. But if they’re fast to move onwards and upwards anyway (and indeed, these aren’t people selected because they demonstrated exceptional talent at the job, but precisely because they showed serious drive at moving up and not wanting to spend time hanging about) then that is really quite negated isn’t it?

  20. Look at the alleged decades of ‘experience’ she has of “the criminal justice system” – on a parole board and in government. Believe it or not this isn’t actually policing. It’s like saying someone who has washed dishes and been a waiter in restaurants can be promoted to a cordon bleu chef. Well, no.

  21. It’s hopeless to say that all senior coppers must have started as PCs and laboriously worked their way up. None of the armed forces in the world uses that model, as far as I know, so why must a police force?

    That’s a reasonable point, but my objection isn’t so much the mid-level entry as the ludicrous fast-tracking.

  22. Your friend sounds like my type of chap, always good money to be made if you can combine brains with a capacity for educating people in behavior.

    Yeah, he’s not someone who should have gone to university but he’s a smart chap with buckets of common sense. He’s an ex-para, and he’s used his extra smarts to first learn and then get himself ahead.

  23. Beyond a certain point, I don’t think mere time served makes much difference – someone with 25 years of service towards the bottom of the ladder has pretty much seen the same stuff, over and over again, as someone with 10 years of service.

    Yup. Also, too often 15 years of blithering incompetence is seen as preferable to 2-3 years of sound delivery. The oil industry has recruited on this basis for years.

  24. Believe it or not this isn’t actually policing.

    They don’t give a shit. I’ve seen people parachuted into top, technical positions in the oil business without any revelant experience in the industry. Unfortunately, these types always lack the humility to belt up and learn for a while.

  25. The third Dirty Harry movie The Enforcer tackled this subject rather well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rcIJIWqYmo

    Here Harry got roped into an evaluation committee to test prospective Inspector, the highest detective position in San Francisco police. In the clip, a female candidate who have made ZERO arrest of any sort (Harry was only asking for her most memorable felony arrest) was on Mayor’s short list for promotion. If she does have one thing going for her is that she does know the ins and outs of the law and can actually learn.

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