Chain Reaction

No, nothing to do with an old Diana Ross track, but the title of a presentation I gave at the UK’s first ever TEDx policing event in Leeds yesterday – #OldBillRebuilt, ably organised by Gareth Stubbs.

Hopefully, the footage will be uploaded to the TEDx website pretty soon, so you can cringe at my bad jokes and unpolished delivery.

In the meantime, these are the slides, along with a running commentary…

Chain reaction 1

Here we have a few of the Stick People, including Stick Cop, Stick Child (next to Stick Cop) and a few of his friends.

Chain reaction 2

This is the title page, with a stock photo of a chain and a guest appearance from Stick Teacher. It would be wise to do as he says.

Chain reaction 3

Okay, so now we have the first challenge… this is a bowl of my home made Vietnamese beef broth (Pho). The Stick Person likes the look of it and wants to have it for his lunch. Now all he needs to do is decide what the ideal implement would be to get the soup out of the bowl and into his tummy.

Chain reaction 4

Right, so here’s a range of options. He could use a fork, but although you might hear some senior managers say, “I’ve always used a fork to eat soup and it’s got me where I am today!” it’s probably not a very good option as it’s likely to result in an angry Stick Person.

Then there’s the knife. Indeed, many would argue that a knife would be a perfectly legitimate option as you could balance a few drops of soup on the flat side. Some would also say there’s nothing wrong with using a knife to lift droplets of soup from the bowl in an excruciatingly slow manner, as people should be free to use whichever implements they want to when it comes to eating soup. Nevertheless, the result = angry Stick Person.

Then of course we have the spoon – designed for precisely this type of situation, fit for purpose, easy to use, gets the job done. This is likely to result in an empty bowl and a happy Stick Person with a full tummy.

Chain reaction 5

Now let’s see how this applies to the world of performance management. Wake up! I know it might not seem to be the most enthralling subject matter, but stay with me – it’s important.

Chain reaction 6

Okay, so here’s what happens when binary comparisons, league tables and numerical targets are used as a means of presenting performance information. What’s more, this type of chain reaction is highly predictable. It’s science, kids.

Chain reaction 7

Here’s some alternatives. Control charts and contextualised peer comparisons (stuff which provides statistically meaningful information about comparative peer performance) aren’t the be-all-and-end-all, but at least they aren’t rubbish, like the things in the previous slide. Binary comparisons, league tables and numerical targets are the knives and forks of the performance management soup-eating world; they cause unsightly dribbles down your best T-shirt and leave your tasty soup to go cold.

However, when people use alternative types of performance information, they tend to interpret the data accurately, make better decisions, don’t knee jerk about stuff that probably isn’t even happening, or bully people over meaningless data. This is clearly better for everyone. Cue a happy Stick Person.

Chain reaction 8

Where do you dream up this stuff from Simon? Well, despite the crude drawings, flippant commentary and simplistic headlines, it’s all from proper, rigorous and extensive research. ‘Evidence-based policing’, if you will. Here’s a couple of academic articles of mine that have been published recently. They are crammed full of impenetrable stats and clever tests. If you have difficulty sleeping or just refuse to accept what the slides with the red and green arrows are telling you, then you should read them.

Chain reaction 9

And there you have it…Back to the soup!


Limited edition bonus material: As a special extra, here’s some photos from the event; one of speakers and audience members (you can play ‘spot the twitter user’ if you like) and another featuring me looking shifty in a variety of poses and bad light.

TEDx group photo

TEDx photo group with logo

About InspGuilfoyle

I am a serving Police Inspector and systems thinker. I am passionate about doing the right thing in policing. I dislike numerical targets and unnecessary bureaucracy.
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2 Responses to Chain Reaction

  1. Ian Hesketh says:

    Excellent talk, thanks for sharing too!

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