VUCA is a term you hear a lot these days, as it has become common lexicon in many fields. VUCA is an acronym for Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous. Law enforcement professionals today live and work in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. On his website, John Black DBA, says, “Policing is complexity within complexity, and police use of force is arguably one of the most complex things to understand.” The question for you as a trainer is, “Are you preparing your people for this VUCA world through your training?”
To prepare the heroic men and women of your agency to thrive in a VUCA world law you need to make sure you are teaching them how to think critically, helping them develop a richer understanding of the decisions they make and how to make better quality decisions. They need to know how to work through and solve problems. They need to know how to have conversations with real people in complex environments. They need to know how to improvise, adapt and overcome. They need to understand that everything you teach is interconnected. They need to know how to train, study and learn so that they understand, retain and can apply what they are learning. And they need to know how to articulate all of that after an event.
In order to accomplish all that you need to break with how we traditionally have trained in law enforcement. You need to move away from blocked and siloed training and moved to an interleaved model utilized spaced practice and micro dose training throughout the year. This also requires looking at training and learning as a career long process from hire to retire, not simply a mandatory block once a year.
You need to move always from linear, technique based control tactics programs where you teach that when the subject does A you do B and when they do C you do D. You need to teach principles and concepts, which can be applied in a variety of environments and incorporate the principles of desirable difficulty and problem solving in your control tactics program.
You need to move away from Ask-Tell-Make and other linear strategic communications programs where the subject says A, then you say B, they then say C and you say D, etc., and teach them how to talk with people in a variety of environments.
You also need to create an environment where it is safe and encouraged for people to ask questions in training. If they are asking questions it is usually because they do not understand what you are teaching or the application for it and want to learn.
In your organization it is critical to create an culture where debriefings and after action reviews are commonplace. These are built on the principle of ‘Ask More – Tell Less’ and are designed for people to reflect on what the mission was, what actually happened, what went well, what did not go well, what did we learn and what could we do differently at similar calls in the future to improve the decisions we make.
It is important to teach everyone in your organization about human factors and the potential impacts of stress on performance, attention and memory in VUCA environments. Teach wellness, which is an extremely broad topic, as an officer safety issue. Help your people understand the principles of purposeful and deliberate practice and the importance of developing a Growth Mindset so they can better train, learn and grow. You also need to teach leadership principles starting at the Academy and continuing throughout people’s careers.
There has likely never been a more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous time for the men and women of law enforcement. There has never been a more challenging time, or a more important time for training and trainers. Providing effective training is a lot of work requires getting the right people into training positions, continually training them and creating an environment of continuous learning and improvement within the training environment.
As trainers we need to be willing to do the work to continually improve our own skills, knowledge and understanding so we can continually refine and enhance the training we deliver and do the best job possible of preparing our people for the VUCA world they live and work in.
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