Just when the news of the Scottish police centralisation of call handlng has shown that there are significant problems with this approach, Mike Penning, a home office minister has stated that the combining of three emergency services will bring significant benefits. This will bring in economies of scale with the sharing of back office services. Efficiency jsut drops out as the answer, doesn't it?
This is not the place to resort to egoistically stating one view over another. No, its time to realise that we, as a nation, relish in stating the obvious. At least, we all think we are stating the obvious, and each of us comes up with the solution that makes sense. Maybe its about time that we stood back a little, and recognise that we keep returning to this style of behaviour like flies around a light bulb.
Its obvious that covering a pan that is boiling over, to stop it from spilling its hot contents is a solution to a problem. But the better solution is to switch off the gas.
Transformation is about doing different things, not doing the same things differently. It is about looking at what we have been doing, and choosing to approach problems from different perspectives. I would suggest to Mike Penning that his good idea, based on common sense, just before he commits millions, to just do a few simple things:
1. Get someone to help you learn how the current system works. Understand its underlying assumptions. Discover the root cause of the issues.
2. Start with a better set of assumptions, and apply a different logic to the problem you have to solve.
3. Start to redesign the system, so that the problem's root causes are eliminated.
4. You end up with a system that works differently than before, will cost less, and performs better.
You need someone to show you how to do it, because it is very difficult to see the system we are in differently, without someone to help us.
Its actually not difficult, and will only take a few weeks to do 1 and 2, but it will save milllions.
Remember this from 2010? The principles were exactly the same...
“FiRecontrol was a project established under the previous Labour Government, and is now being scrapped because it does not work.
“This project has wasted millions of pounds of public money as well as thousands of firefighter hours in trying to bring it to completion.
This is a plea for trying something different, so my tax money will not be wasted again.
I just want to add this about Ian Duncan Smith and Universal Credits. Its the same principle as sharing control centres, related to a process:
"This is the man who is the chief architect of the Universal Credit, which was supposed to have been rolled out in October 2013, and in March 2016 has been rolled out to the grand total of 141,100 people - and by "people", I mean "single men without dependents", the only group whose claims are simple enough to be processed on the Universal Credit."
Stephen Bush, New Statesman
Good grief, look at this! facebook page about universal credit
So, the Scottish Police centralisation of calls is being put on hold. What is the problem? The problem is that we as decision-makers love to use the same clever principles to make decisions, that on reflection, seem to be plausible.
The problem is that the police service relies heavily on calls into the system. These calls arrive at all times of the day, with varied frequency over the day. At small sites the cost of managing these call handlers, arranging their shifts, and preparing for holidays and sickness is a challenge. So, the solution is to get them all from the smaller sites, put them in a big building, and connect them with technology, back to their original locations. Then, maybe we can recruit cheaper grade staff to answer the calls, based on best practice CRM systems. If we can call India when we talk to a bank, surely its a no-brainer?
It all makes sense to a decision-maker, who is being pushed to make savings, the like that have never been experienced by that leader in the lifetime of the service. The logic and the maths make perfect sense.
The reality is this. The demand that comes in is often complex and fails to follow a pre-determined pattern to resolve. That seemingly simple call about a Facebook spat can turn nasty if not dealt with according to the unique circumstances of what matters to that particular caller. The history of conflict within the facebook issue, shows that those invovled have been warring for some time.
Then, if we do pass on the call to a division, it gets categorised, prioritised, and then sits in a queue until someone in a locality picks it up and reads it. They read what was written by the call handler, not what was actually said, not understanding the intonation in the voice, not hearing the confused shy vulnerable message struggling to be heard over and above the categorisation they are being forced to be placed in.
The call-handler is trained to push away calls deemed not for the police. The unintended consequence is often an escalatin of the incident, until it becomes necessary to respond to with greater attention.
The locality the call eventually gets to, need to call the caller back, to obtain more information that was not detailed on the record. The phone number is tried several times, before contact is remade. The officer who can really help understand and help the caller, finally talks to the person with the problem, and then finally starts the value work of sorting out the problem. Hopefuly it is not too late by then, but it has caused a load of waste activity to ripple through the organisation.
One day someone will come up with the bright idea of in the first instance, getting the caller to talk directly to the person who can help them resolve the problem, and that same manager who set up the big building full of call handlers will find that the cost of doing this is considerably less than the old way. And, as a by product, the service is markedly improved.
It is what happens to all such contact centres if they are analysed in the right way, but it takes so many of us to make the expensive mistake before we learn that lesson. By that time, a new manager has taken the reigns, and they have a great idea to solve the cost of different localities taking their own calls... The wheel goes round again.
Take a systems thinking approach to this problem, and the right solution will be clear.
Scottish policing article from Ian Wiggett
So, you have decided to log demand into the police. Make sure you look at all the demands coming in, they come in on the phone, by email, and into the enquiry counters. And what about when officers are on the beat, and from the phone at enquiry counters, don't forget those...
Then a table is made up of demand. And if youre thinking a little further, you decide to focus using an outside-in perspective, to see what REAL demands are coming in. So split the demand into value and failure demands. Take a systems thinking view of demand.
The demand coming into the police are far more tricky to analyse than transactional based system. Why? well, because these demands are:
1. They are varied. Some demand is a simple questions, some are for requests for police service, and others are just plain calls for help. If you try and combine them together, on a spreadsheet, then you may be working with data that is just too summarised to make any real decisions on. A demand for a shotgun licence, to a call to attend a historic burglary, to a call for a domestic issue, to a call asking about help on a civil matter. Some of those demands will take a great deal of time to answer, and what matters to the caller and the subsequent response is vastly different.
2. In a simpler system, like a bank, a demand is a call for service, and the service delivery follows that demand. With the police a demand may be followed up by subsequent demands, that are of value. They represent communciation that is part of the flow of work. Maybe in these cases it is better to view these demands as in process demands.
If you treat the demands above as the same for computational and analysis purposes, you will aggregate apples and pairs as being the same fruit. And how useful will the information be? Maybe a better way is to look at the police system from an outside in perspective, and group demands into:
a. Transactional demands - that starts as a demand from the public, and the police provide a service or answer, and then it is complete. These transactional demands can then be further categorised.
b. Help me demands - where a member of the public needs help and support. These cases are sometimes complex, sometimes not directly do with the police, and their resolution may be long term.
c. Different types of demands follow different flows of work. If they do, then these demands are different and be wary of aggregating them into statistics.
So, whats the best thing to do with demands into the police? Be very wary of categorising them to any standard apart from that from the outside in perspective, and use what matters as a guide. Then you will create groups of demands that will truly be useful to operations to analyse how to deal with them.
Lean, or systems thinking gives a view of your organisation that is often difficult to view, in todays pressured and prioritised environment. Using it will help you to see why certain issues remain resistant to change, regardless of how many consultants, or how much money is thrown at it.
A link to Joan Donnelly article on Demand, from Policing Insight here