So, you’ve decided to embark on a full-scale rewrite of your organization’s policies. You might think your success depends solely on the content you use to develop policies. And certainly, high-quality content is essential to new policy implementation (which is why so many agencies use Lexipol’s state-specific, legally defensible policies).
But there’s another critical aspect to consider: who will manage the project. In very small agencies, this task may fall to the chief, but most organizations will need to designate someone who can devote more time to the project. And due to the complex nature of policy implementation, not just anyone will do.
The best project managers bring a broad base of experience within both public safety and the organization. Such experience is vital to being able to relate practical experiences to proposed policies.
Our experience working with thousands of agencies, big and small, has provided some insight into the qualities you should consider—and some you might want to avoid.
What You Want
Commitment to/Support for the Project: Your project manager should be someone who has wholeheartedly accepted the assignment and is a committed advocate for the project. Put simply: They want the job! In addition, they should be able to motivate others to care about policy and the process of producing good policy.
Facilitation Skills: The policy implementation project involves bringing together various stakeholders and their differing perspectives and opinions. Therefore, your project manager should be an open-minded individual who can facilitate productive conversations to produce consensus. This includes someone with good listening and communication skills, who is not afraid to (respectfully) ask difficult questions and work to find the answers.
Detailed/Organized: There are idea people and then there are people who can work to implement big ideas. Your policy manager should be the latter. You need someone who understands the scope of the project but brings the necessary attention to detail, organizational skills, and goal-setting ability to keep the project moving forward.
Availability/Time Management: Whoever you pick to lead this project must be able to devote the necessary time and to manage their time effectively. Aim for someone who will not only be able to come prepared to all scheduled meetings, but has time outside of meetings to devote to policy review and discussion. Note that this may eliminate high-ranking personnel who may have too many other obligations to make the necessary commitment (though they’ll still provide input during the review/approval workflow process).
Authority: Having the ability and the authority to make project decisions with minimal consultations is critical to the success of your policy implementation project manager. Ensure this person has the full support and delegation of the agency executive and sufficient status in the organization to hold people to deadlines.
Experience/Technical Expertise: The best project managers bring a broad base of experience within both public safety and the organization. Such experience is vital to being able to relate practical experiences to proposed policies. They should be familiar with your current policy content and your agency’s goals and objectives, and ideally have some experience with risk management and/or policy management.
What You Don’t Want
In it for the Wrong Reasons: If possible, avoid assigning the policy implementation project to someone on light duty who doesn’t really want to do this. The project should also not be assigned to someone as a punishment or because they did something wrong. Similarly, resist the temptation to name a newly minted sergeant, lieutenant or company officer who is out to prove themselves. You need a true advocate and someone with a passion for making the agency better through policy.
Too Siloed within the Agency: As noted above, the best project managers have a broad understanding of and experience with the agency. Try to avoid designating someone who is an “administrative wonk,” with no appreciation for operations. On the other hand, the manager should not be so operations-minded that they have no appreciation for administration.
Resistant to the Project: Some personnel think policies are a way to “trap” and discipline members or keep them “under control.” Others may be overly defensive of existing policies, believe that change is unnecessary, or express the sentiment “that’s just the way we do things.” Try to avoid assigning the project to anyone with these mindsets. As noted above, you need someone who will be a staunch advocate for the new manual and the process of working through policy review.
Implementing new policies is really all about project management. Taken as a whole, it can be intimidating and the end result can seem like it’s years away. But the right project manager will break down the project into manageable tasks, while maintaining a schedule that’s feasible but drives progress. Much of the hard work is on the front end; once you get a rhythm going for policy review and adoption, it’s smooth sailing.
But first, you have to make sure you have the right captain for the ship!
Can’t find the right person inside your organization to manage your policy implementation project? Lexipol’s Implementation Services staff can provide start-to-finish project management assistance.