Arguably, solving problems is what the police promotion process is all about.
Specifically, in an application form or interview – articulating how you have solved problems in the past; in a role-play or in-tray exercise – solving problems ‘here and now’; and in a presentation, briefing or for forward-facing interview questions – how you will solve them in the future.
A core skill for every competent leader is finding ways to solve problems, be they big or small, simple or complex, people or process, operational or strategic. Google ‘problem solving’ and you’ll find numerous steps or models to help you become a confident problem solver.
In policing, the ‘National Decision Model’ (NDM, College of Policing), is at its heart designed to demonstrate effective decision making – when tackling a range of problems. Whilst the NDM may be relevant to use or refer to in the promotion process, it shouldn’t be confused with an interview or assessment exercise structure.
We demonstrate the importance and value of having an effective structure to ensure powerful delivery in our ‘3 Pillars of Promotion Success’ programme.
In our view, officers need to consider three simple steps to problem solving from an assessment perspective.
From our experience of coaching thousands of officers from the across the UK in preparing for their promotion, candidates tend to overly focus on the second step, taking action, missing key assessment indicators and reducing opportunity to score highly.
Three Steps to Problem Solving:
1.Understand the root cause (why has the problem occurred)
2.Take action – solve the problem
3.Prevent recurrence (learn to adapt behaviours or processes)
Step 1 and 3 are crucial to articulate from an assessment perspective, especially for interactive exercises such as the role-play or operational briefing. This risk otherwise is that candidates only deal with what is presented to them on face value and fail to consider key questions, such as why, what, how? etc. – an essential part of longer-term problem solving and demand reduction.
You can only take action once you have fully understood why the problem has occurred – what the cause is.
Take for example the poor performance of an officer. The initial material may indicate missing deadlines, poor file preparation or recurring absences. Taken on face-value, some candidates may start to think about development or action plans, increased support or supervision in the workplace, such as training. What these candidates miss is the underlying cause of this problem, which could cover any number of scenarios, for example bullying in the workplace or personal welfare matters.
Sounds obvious. Likelihood is you knew this already. But the reality is that the vast majority of candidates forget all this when under pressure and resort to very transactional behaviours.
Always take a step back and ask yourself, why?