Canada’s federal police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), has been the subject of several headlines recently. Two reports were released dealing once again with the issue of workplace harassment. A third report conducted by the Auditor General found that the RCMP leadership had failed to fund and fully implement their 2014 Mental Health Strategy. These are just the latest in a series of reports that have been conducted as the government tries to deal with ongoing complaints.
In the latest report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, Commission Council Emma Phillips said, “we reviewed the degree to which RCMP culture contributes to the problem of workplace harassment, because, of course, it’s now well-known and established that the culture of an organization will affect the ways in which conduct is viewed to be acceptable or not acceptable in a particular organization”.
Commissioner Ian McPhail went on to say “If the last 10 years, over 15 reports and hundreds of recommendations for reform have produced any lessons, it is that the RCMP is not capable of making the necessary systemic changes of its own accord”. A harsh opinion on the state of leadership.
No leader wants to hear a similar verdict on their abilities. So what can we learn from the RCMP situation?
Avoiding the FAD syndrome
Leaders sometimes get off track when it comes to culture because they get caught up in the initial flurry of responses to an assessment that they either pick quick short term action with little impact, or they start hard complex initiatives that lose steam and fade out. I call this the FAD syndrome – Fun And Done.
This happened at the RCMP. McPhail noted “the effect of one short-term program after another has been to erode the confidence of RCMP members and employees that real change will ever be realized”. In another example, Bob Paulson, head of the RCMP, committed to reporting every 180 days on the action being taken but only ended up producing one report.
It’s not always about the people
When most people think of culture they think about the values, beliefs and behaviors that people exhibit in the workplace. Sometimes these are also influenced by policies, processes and regulations. For example, people aren’t bureaucratic by nature. However, if you work in a highly regulated environment, the demands can create frustrating levels of reporting and hamper your ability to run your operations effectively.
The RCMP are governed by the RCMP Act. In order to make some of the recommended changes within the various reports, changes to the Act had to happen. Despite the plethora of advice, the changes didn’t get introduced until 2014. This effectively hamstrung the RCMP leadership who recognized and agreed with the proposed changes but were unable to proceed on them until the government approved the legislative updates.
There’s always a cost to culture
One of the best measures of the cost of your culture is the degree of cultural entropy. Cultural entropy is based on the number of negative or limiting values found in your organization. By doing an audit of how these values are impacting the way work gets done (or not done) you can uncover the hidden costs of culture.
For the RCMP, the cost of unnecessary bureaucracy, workplace harassment, and lack of accountability is translating into non-productive time on the job, high levels of absenteeism and increased stress leaves. This further exacerbates a chronic staff shortage situation. On top of that, a class action suit by former employees has required the government to set aside $100 million for settlement.
The RCMP faces an uphill battle to make the significant culture change required. It will take strong leadership to continue to make the right changes and shift the organization towards a more positive workplace. There are no Great Place to Work® awards in their near future.
But the same is not true for you. Likely you already have a decent culture. In order to ensure that your workplace continues to thrive don’t fall into the trap of creating FAD initiatives, be conscious of how your policies and processes may be turning into barriers, and conduct a regular culture audit to measure the hidden costs in your organization.