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Changing the Culture of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
November 24, 2009
When Elliot was appointed as Commissioner, several structural, managerial, economical, and political issues affected the RCMP's reputation. Elliot now faces the challenge of determining how to change the culture of the RCMP so it is perceived as trustworthy and ethically sound, while also having effective leadership and the ability to sustain organizational goals (Robbins, Coulter & Langton, 2009). In order to succeed, Elliot must also find a way to balance the needs of the key stakeholders - the taxpayers, the federal government and the employees.
Strength and Weaknesses
The three-billion dollar tradition-based RCMP is run in a parliamentary style with 100,000 diverse employees/volunteers from many cultural backgrounds (RCMP, n.d.) and has a strong history of exceptional service. Culture is impacted by how many employees each manager oversees.Â With 750 detachments with multiple levels of management, it appears that the span of control supports the organizational culture with an appropriate manager/employee ratio (RCMP, n.d.).
According to Fayol's principles of organizational management, the structure seems ideal as work is done efficiently with a top-to-bottom chain of command and goals to achieve. Weber's bureaucracy theory also sees the organizational structure as effective with a hierarchical chain of command, hiring processes, rules and regulations, and clear division of labour. The RCMP count on a stable legal/political system to support their work, but recently their internal checks and balances failed. This structural instability identified a lack of authority at some levels and too much authority at others.Â
Another weakness was employee dissatisfaction with the previous leadership's style of management, lack of ethics, loss of effectiveness, and poor communication (Fitzpatrick, 2007).Â Leaders influence cultural change, and by modeling inappropriate behaviour, contribute to the development of off-kilter cultural norms (Fitzpatrick, 2007). There is an explicit need to improve the RCMP's cultural norms.
A hierarchical communication barrier puts strain on employees and provides little room to use diagonal forms of communication to share concerns. Another weakness of the RCMP, according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory, is that employees do not feel safe and therefore do not progress to the next level of development. This affects employees' ability to cope with problems at work and impedes involvement in improving workplace culture. To be motivated, employees must feel safe to express criticisms and question decisions (Ministry of Public Safety, 2007, pp. 25-29).
Opportunities and Threats
Ethical dilemmas trigger reviews of factors that affect an employee's moral judgment. Mismanagement exposed unethical practices being used by the RCMP and by the external (outsourced) consultants responsible for managing the pension. Hiring Elliott was a tactic used to gain an external leader with high moral standards and ethics and the managerial experience to do the job.
Although the RCMP is affected by societal needs and change will be a constant factor facing the organization in the future, the Globe Framework for Assessing Cultures states that society will support change in behaviours which result in positive outcomes. This presents an opportunity for the RCMP to leverage the resources it has to develop a culture that will be supported by all stakeholders. There are sufficient policies and federal statutes to guide behaviour; multiple enforcement agencies and professional studies that can inform the RCMP; and many training programs for managing human resources and improving management practices.
At the same time, if the RCMP's culture is based on collectivism, in a country where culture is normally based on individualism (Hofstede's Framework for Assessing Cultures), the RCMP have a significant challenge in meeting the needs of the RCMP and the stakeholders.Â The perception that the RCMP is a law unto themselves is in direct conflict with the belief that an individual is accountable for his/her actions. The RCMP Act, which guides employee behaviour with a code of conduct, also limits an employee's ability to question a subordinate's orders (Ministry of Public Safety, 2007, pp. 25-29).
Another threat to the RCMP is the public's access to instant communication (e.g. video recorders) which result in news reports that create a false consensus that what is reported is true. Stakeholders judge the employee versus the perpetrator, and RCMP breach of trust is a huge issue for the public.
Criteria for Decision Making
The most relevant factors considered when identifying and evaluating alternatives are:
1. Will it change the culture of the RCMP?
2. Is it feasible?
3. Can outcomes be identified and measured?
4. Is it cost effective?
5. Is it consistent with organizational goals?
6. Will it satisfy stakeholders?
Alternatives and Recommendations
One option for changing the culture is to hire a Director of Cultural Change.Â The role supports planning and implementing cultural changes as directed by administration. The Director will develop a three-year plan and implementation could happen quite rapidly. This plan is unlikely to be effective, given that it is based on an omnipotent view of management and does not include input from the employees. It may only be as good as the person who is hired and it does not support "buy in" by all employees.
A second alternative is to hire an independent cultural expert to visit the detachments to survey and establish a baseline of the culture, identify what needs changing, and make recommendations on how to proceed. This plan is costly as it involves travel to remote locations and employee time to meet with the expert.Â It also adds a significant delay in implementing a change strategy.
The final alternative, which is recommended, is to build on the learning community that already exists in the RCMP and identify internal resources that can be re-allocated to inform and educate employees. It is feasible to create a short term (one year) and long term (three year) plan to implement cultural changes. This alternative aligns with the urgency of the matter and the goals of the organization. The first steps could be underway immediately, and built upon in a collaborate model with input from employees. The infrastructure is already in existence with the training depot, video conferencing and website (RCMP, n.d.). This plan offers a fast, effective and efficient implementation. Also, a plan using internal resources is most likely to be adopted by the employees. Given that employees mentor volunteers, it is crucial that volunteers have input. An advisory committee is beneficial to this plan.
With administrative commitment, the following outlines a good foundation for developing culturally appropriate learning activities that support change.
- Develop an administrative code of ethics to influence managers' behaviour.
- Articulate RCMP mission and values statements (Hafner, 2003).
- Create a culture of zero tolerance for wrongdoing. Enforce the rules.
- Institute a training plan to inform/educate employees on acceptable/unacceptable behavior (include accountability guidelines, scenarios that reinforce ethics/values).
- Implement a communication plan using multiple channels of communication. Include options for discussion, feedback and confidentiality. Develop a marketing strategy.
- Identify deeply ingrained cultural beliefs to keep and those to change. Implement a plan with timelines for benchmarking the changes and establishing best practices. Provide opportunities for employees to participate (Hart, 1996).
- Establish short (one year) and long term (three year) strategic goals for cultural change which are responsive to public concerns.
Cultural change supports the work being done by administration. The recommendation bridges the past cultural norms (liabilities) and re-invents acceptable cultural norms (assets) for the internal stakeholders (Marc & Farbrother, 2003). In doing this work, in a collaborative manner, it will be recognized, accepted and trusted by all stakeholders. Employees have a significant role to play in the success of the plan and the motivating result will be the self-satisfaction of a job well done.
Canada. Ministry of Public Safety. (2007) A Matter of Trust. Ottawa, ON, Office of the Independent Investigator into RCMP Pension and Insurance Matters.
Marc, D.L. & Farbrother, S. (2003) Changing Organizational Culture, One Face at a Time [Internet].
Fitzpatrick, M. (2007). RCMP 'horribly broken,' need fix quickly: report. Winnipeg Free Press (MB), 16 June, p.A1. Retrieved from Canadian Reference Centre database.Â
Hafner, M. (2003) Changing organizational culture to adapt to a community policing philosophy - Perspective [Internet]. The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, September. Available from: <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2194/is_9_72/ai_110395566/?tag=content;coll > [Accessed 6 November 2009].
Hart, J.M. (1996) The Management of Change in Police Organizations [Internet]. Ljubljana, Slovenia, Policing in Central and Eastern Europe: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West. Available from: <http://www.ncjrs.gov/policing/man199.htm> [Accessed 6 November 2009]
Robbins, S.P., Coulter, M. & Langton, N. (2009) Management. 9th ed. Toronto, Pearson Prentice Hall.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (n.d.) Corporate Facts. Available from: <http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/fs-fd/pdfs/collectif-eng.pdf> [Accessed 15 November 2009].
Shanahan, P. (2000) Police Culture and the Learning Organisation: A Relationship?[Internet].Â Crows Nest, NSW, Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association. Available from:Â http://www.avetra.org.au/abstracts_and_papers_2000/ps_full.pdf [Accessed 9 November 2009].