Harnessing the power of culture in the Home Affairs and Justice sector
May 11, 2021
PwC’s 24th Annual CEO survey reinforces that there is no shortage of strategic priorities for leaders. This applies equally to the UK Home Affairs and Justice sector, which has a number of contending priorities such as:
- accelerating digital transformation (e.g. Courts and Tribunals Reform or the Digital Policing Portfolio);
- managing cyber threats (e.g. Regional Cyber Crime Units); and
- developing the workforce of the future (e.g. Police Uplift Programme or preparing for upcoming retirement waves for prosecutors and judges).
While these priorities warrant investment and transformation programmes, the power of culture as an enabler to change is often under exploited; “culture” is seen as too intangible, too difficult to understand, let alone to change. But our experience shows that culture change is a critical enabler to delivering strategic priorities, and embedding sustainable transformational change.
What is culture?
Culture is the self-sustaining patterns of behaviours that determine how work gets done: it’s how people behave, think, feel and what they believe in.
New processes, systems and structures are important levers for delivering modernised services and responding to strategic priorities. But to create real and lasting change, organisations must ensure that culture drives and promotes the behaviours and ways of working that will embed these tools and leverage them for maximum benefit.
Where can Home Affairs and Justice organisations harness culture as an enabler of their strategic priorities?
There are many instances where Home Affairs and Justice organisations can either better leverage their existing cultures, or effect a change in culture to enable their strategies. Three examples are outlined below.
- Driving a focus on diversity, inclusion and wellbeing: Often, organisations in the sector aspire to develop a more diverse, inclusive and supportive culture. One way of doing this is to encourage the right, enabling behaviours from the outset by designing the recruitment and onboarding processes accordingly, for example in the context of the Police Uplift Programme, and recruitment of Probation Officers or Magistrates.
- Ensuring culture enables innovation: These organisations are also usually looking to find the right balance between driving innovation through technology and data (requiring some experimentation or risk-taking) and the longstanding sector priority of safety and security (which tends to elicit more risk-averse behaviours). Conscious choices may be needed to stop the prevalent culture unduly hindering progress.
- Enabling a culture that drives cross-system collaboration: The Home Affairs and Justice sector consists of networks, communities and complex systems - Counter Terrorism Policing, Regional Organised Crime Units, Intelligence Agencies and Criminal Justice Partners. Collaboration should be a top strategic priority to deliver the best outcomes and efficiently share resources, but the culture in hierarchical organisations typically hinders collaboration. Command and control behaviours need to be balanced with the right amount of delegation and empowerment.
How do you drive culture change?
- Understand the present - Articulating and understanding the cultural traits and characteristics of your organisation allows you to identify enabling traits that you want to harness going forward, as well as hindering traits that hold you back.
- “Don’t boil the ocean” - The ‘critical few’ principle within PwC’s Katzenbach culture change methodology (which we recently used with two large police organisations) argues that organisations reap most benefit by focusing on the ‘critical few’ behaviours that will have the most impact in shifting the dial towards their strategic objectives
- Identify and mobilise your ‘authentic informal leaders’ - While the tone of an organisation should come from the top, messages are best received when delivered by peers or trusted colleagues. Finding and mobilising a group of “authentic informal leaders” who are well-networked and embody the enabling behaviours can be powerful.
- It’s more than soft skills - Soft skills based training (e.g.leadership development) play a role, but they are only one lever for behavioural change. Targeted amendments to processes, governance and policies will have a significant effect on behaviours and subsequently culture.
The many organisations that comprise these critical parts of the UK’s Home Affairs and Justice sector have long and proud histories. Their cultural traits often see them through good times and bad - but we rarely find people in the sector, or its customers, who claim the culture is fully aligned to priorities. Culture does evolve naturally but it can also be evolved deliberately. Ask yourself: is culture change front and centre of your organisation's efforts in achieving and sustaining its strategic priorities? We’d love to discuss this with you so please do get in touch.