The value of a pause: stories of change in the RCMP
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” - Ferris Bueller
The same can be said of organizational change. Widespread change starts small. But when the pace of work is quick, and your focus is on the challenges immediately ahead of you, that progress can sometimes be missed.
I can relate to glossing over the small victories, whether it’s getting on the same page as your colleagues or reaching a small project milestone. That’s why it’s helpful to take a pause – even in the busiest of times – to reflect on where you’ve been, and where you are. It can re-energize us and continue pushing us to where we want to be. I learned this after The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) partnered with the Canadian Digital Service (CDS) on a cybercrime and fraud reporting tool.
Building and learning new things
When we built the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit (NC3), we wanted to take a different path. Part of that included developing a new system where victims could report cybercrime and fraud in a simple way. So we partnered with CDS to build the National Cybercrime and Fraud Reporting System (NCFRS). We were not only building a tool together, but also learning how to build in more modern ways. We used sprints to work on small chunks at a time. And we were also constantly iterating by putting the needs of the people who would use this tool first, rather than focusing only on business needs. These were new ways of working.
Assessing the work
By 2020 the reporting tool was being piloted with five victims a day. At this point in its maturity, we thought it would be helpful to understand the impact of the partnership so far. Up to that point, we’d been evaluating the effectiveness of the tool itself with quantitative data. What had been missing was understanding how well we were adapting to these new ways of building.
This kind of change couldn’t be measured by lines of code pushed or project milestones achieved. So we turned to CDS for options to assess some of the qualitative aspects of our work. They suggested we use an evaluation method called “Most Significant Change”.
Most significant change
The “Most Significant Change” method collects stories of change over time. To collect these stories, we sat down with ten RCMP colleagues working on the tool. They ranged from software developers, program managers, policy advisors and members of the management team. We asked each of them to tell us about the most significant change they had observed around: * How the RCMP develops a product or service * Staff skills and confidence * Work processes * Any other big changes they noticed
We collected more than 30 stories of change from this exercise. Some were as small as learning how to use new tools (like GitHub or Trello). Others were as large as rethinking our entire development processes and implementing new methods (like DevOps).
The value in a pause
As we collected people’s stories, it became clear that this exercise was long overdue. The intangible changes shared were very encouraging. Some weren’t even noticed until we took a step back to reflect. As we progressed through each interview, the interviewees themselves began to realize this.
For example, after reflection, one person realized how exposure to agile methods gave management a new perspective and sense of trust in the team:
“Overall, the RCMP already had a strong skillset in place. The key was to have a different approach to how the RCMP was operating. Once management began to realize, when working in agile, the project is never finished, they were able to step back and gain a greater perspective. This allowed management to take a hands-off approach on projects, and gave employees more autonomy and control over the work they were currently doing.“
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable was key. After an initial period of discomfort, management gained peace of mind in the process. This led to working-level employees feeling more empowered to take calculated risks. And it had a positive impact on the team, too! It helped staff feel more confident, helped them better track progress, and made them more effective and efficient.
Looking back to move forward
It’s true, life moves fast for all of us. But slowing down for a moment of reflection can sometimes be a catalyst to help you move forward – right when you might need it most.
The changes we saw through the “Most Significant Change” exercise didn’t happen overnight. We worked closely with CDS for over a year to develop a working culture that embraced these changes. By focusing on the little things and tackling one small challenge at a time, we were able to create change that was greater than the sum of its parts. Our management team helped enable this with their commitment to challenging the status quo.
But our work is far from done. We’re excited to keep taking the lessons we learned from CDS and apply them across the unit to help us reduce victimization and impact of Cybercrime in Canada.