With the current pressure on the policing profession to change the way we train and to do more training the natural response for many agencies is to rush to implement training to “Check the Box” as I cautioned about last week, or to seek out “Best Practices”. For a number of years I have been sharing a caution regarding Best Practices I picked up from leadership guru, speaker, trainer and best selling author Mark Sanborn.
Sanborn cautions against Best Practices as they always have three qualifiers:
- Best Practices that we know of.
- Best Practices for now.
- Best Practices given the circumstances.
This made perfect sense to me when I first read it. Often agencies spend months researching Best Practices, then another month writing the report, which then sits the Commander’s Inbox or on the corner of his or her desk for at least another month. Once someone actually gets around to reading it, then a committee needs to be struck to review it and decide what elements, if any, will be implemented. An implementation plan, and possibly a Beta Test then need to be determined, rolled out and assessed. By the time all this is completed those “Best Practices” have long been obsolete.
How do you determine whose practices are the best practices? Is it name recognition of the agency? Is it the size of the agency believing that bigger means better? Is it based on agencies in your state or province, or your country? Is it all agencies or just similar sized agencies? Is it based on whom the person tasked with doing the research happens to know?
Are best practices for NYPD best practices for LAPD? Are best practices for LAPD best practice for Bend PD? Are best practices for Bend PD best practices for LAPD? Are best practices for Calgary Police Service best practices for Winnipeg PS? Are best practices for a 2000 officer municipal agency best practice for a 20 person Sheriff’s Office responsible for a large rural area? Are best practices for a federal agency best practices for state / provincial or municipal agencies? Are best practices for a regional Academy best practice for an agency specific Academy?
Does all this mean that you don’t find out what other agencies are doing? No. In fact, keeping your finger on the pulse of what is going on in the profession should be an ongoing process. Keeping abreast of what is happening allows you to get focused, and go deeper, quicker when necessary. Having a Training Unit Membership in the Excellence in Training Academy is a great way of continually being exposed to progressive ideas, trends, programs, concepts and philosophies.
So, if Mark Sanborn cautions against Best Practices, what does he recommend? He challenges people to seek Better Practices and Next Practices. Here is how he defines them:
Better Practices: How can do what everyone else is doing, but do it better?
Next Practices: How can you change the game? (This is ideally your goal.)
So, rather than simply looking for Best Practices, which may not actually be the best way to do things for you, and may look a lot like the status quo, get together with your training and leadership teams and ask the questions, “How can we create Next Practices? How can we change the game?” That question challenges you to focus on your agency, your specific needs, your unique community, the expertise that already exists in your agency, the resources available to you (time, money, personnel) and be creative in designing programs that best serve your people, your agency, your community and your circumstances. Next practices are often the result of taking the best parts from a number of programs and sources and creating a hybrid program to address your specific needs.
As you move forward to review, enhance and possibly expand your training programs remember Mark Sanborn’s cautions about Best Practices and seek to establish at least Better Practices, and ideally Next Practices.
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