Essex Police is one of the United Kingdom's largest non-metropolitan police forces responsible for policing the county of Essex, in the east of England. With almost 6,000 employees serving an estimated population of 1.72 million, Essex Police operates across an area of 1,405 square miles, which borders the counties of Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Kent as well as four London boroughs.
A new approach to performance management Essex Police built and implemented a new approach to strategic performance management system which started with the creation of their plan-on-a-page (you can read more about the development of Essex’s plan on a page here ).
“Historically, our performance management framework has focused primarily on regular meetings to scrutinize numeric data sets, with performance evaluated against targets,” Mark Gilmartin, Director of the Essex Police and Kent Police Support Service, explains.
“There was a particular focus on judging success based on daily and weekly data, with longer term trends and contextual information considered less.” He adds that performance management was also focused heavily on collecting data about crime, with limited focus on, or understanding of other important areas of police business. “This reflected the national policing priorities at the time, and other influences,” he adds.
Chief Constable of Essex Police, Stephen Kavanagh, wanted to create a performance framework that could not only help communicate to the various stakeholders what Essex Police aims to achieve as an organisation, but reduce the measurement bureaucracy and collect less but more meaningful performance data.
Developing meaningful performance indicators
Following agreement on the key themes and strategic objectives and the development of the corporate ‘Plan on a Page ’, many organisations jump straight to identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). However, to provide more rigor to KPI selection and identify the true information needs, we introduced the intermediary step of identifying relevant Key Performance Questions (KPQs).
To explain: KPQs articulate the questions an organisation needs to have answers to in order to understand how well it is delivering its strategy. The development of KPQs enable a focused discussion on what information the business leaders really require and serve as an important bridge between organisational goals and KPIs. Indeed KPQs are used to provide the context for KPIs and help to more effectively chose the right indicators. For more on KPQs see this article .
Essex Police identified the following KPQs for the objective ‘understanding the policing needs and responding to demand proactively’:
(1) To what extent are we profiling our demand?
(2) To what extent are we responding to our demand proactively?
These questions are in turn measured by the KPIs:
• Number and type of calls and incidents (trends) (for KPQ 1)
• Response time by type of incident (for KPQ 2)
As a further illustration, for the objective ‘strong leadership at all levels’ Essex Police identified the following KPQs:
(1) To what extent have we got open and honest communication?
(2) To what extent do people understand the strategic direction and priorities?
(3) To what extent do we challenge poor behaviour and poor attendance?
The KPIs that will help provide answers to these questions include staff feedback ‘Strong Leadership’ – measured, among other metrics, via focus groups and brief interviews as well as the Absenteeism Bradford Factor (this is based on the theory that short, frequent, and unplanned absences are more disruptive than longer absences and measures appropriately).
Gilmartin describes the value of KPQs. “KPQs provided a more nuanced approach around asking questions to understand whether there was a problem and if so what does the problem look like in practice, rather than simply asking whether performance is red, amber or green,” he says.
“KPQs provide clear alignment in understanding the nature of the problem rather than shouting loudest.” He adds that as Essex Police was relatively underdeveloped in the way they measured their performance and using KPQ as a way to better understand what they should be looking at was extremely helpful.
Ideas and insights you can steal
Essex Police has moved from an approach where they had lots of performance data on lots of different things but very few real strategic insights to one where they now have fewer indicators but ones that help them answer their most important questions. Using KPQs to identify the most strategic information needs and only then developing the right metrics is an approach every company should follow.
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Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.