With a record number of new PCCs elected in 2021 (and new ways of governing in some cases with new metro mayors), it is important that those new to policing take some time to understand how their force collaborates with others, and avoid ‘breaking up the band’ accidentally.
The American rock band Kiss has had 12 members, ACDC more than 20, yet most people still see them as a single cohesive entity, doing what they do well, and touring and releasing records that fans buy in the millions. Other groups fail to assimilate new members and new approaches, or fade into obscurity when key members move on. Some stars who were confident in their own ability fade into obscurity when trying their solo careers (see Mark Owen versus Robbie Williams from Take That for examples).
Being a PCC with responsibility for a collaboration is a bit like juggling a solo career in your main force, with all the fans who elected you to satisfy, at the same time as being a member of another group with different aims and objectives and musical styles. Here are some (only slightly tongue in cheek) thoughts about how to be less Yoko Ono and more Phil Collins in your approach to a new role in collaboration with other forces.
“When you’re in a band, you have to be part of the team. There’s something comforting about that. But in my solo career, I get to be the boss.” – Stevie Nicks
- It takes time to learn all the new music and fully understand what matters. This is alongside all the other things you will be trying to navigate as a new PCC sliding into an organisation alongside a load of people who already seem to be experts in everything you mentioned in your manifesto (hint – sometimes the experts are just defending the status quo). A collaboration is unlike any other way of doing business in policing – you have a blurred power arrangement with the other partner organisations and PCCs (and you will rapidly come to realise that all the power arrangements as a PCC are blurred!) That translates into much less outwardly robust performance measures, because if a collaboration delivers a successful outcome for one or two forces in a particular period that may mean that it does less for your force – that may be a good thing in the longer term, but with policing’s love of year-on-year performance metrics it may take some time to see the wood for the trees. Using my band analogy – who decides the direction you are taking, and what songs get on the album and setlist is critical, as is the role partners have in this decision. Insisting on performing your solo hit may be a risky strategy in a group made up of members who all have their own solo hits.
- Relationships and trust are crucial. As you are replacing a departing band member you may want to think about both your obvious role (replacing someone who was the bass guitarist or lead singer) as well as the hidden elements – to stretch the band analogy a bit further, are you the main lyricist or the guy who books the venues? Do you turn up and perform, or put some work in behind the scenes? Or are you going to start the fight so someone else will leave the band? Or maybe you want to take the band in a totally different direction? Consideration of relationships and spending the effort to deepen these beyond the merely transactional will pay dividends over time. Otherwise, the conversations deteriorate into who pays for what and the benefits they personally get from a particular approach, and you are more likley to achieve collaborative inertia than collaborative advantage .
- Not everyone can be in the spotlight at once. Collaboration is a joint approach with joint goals and objectives, but that means that at times the lead guitarist will have the spotlight, and at others the lead singer. There will be times in collaboration where for perfectly understandable reasons your role will be to provide the stability and support to the collaboration to enable others to shine and receive the input that they need. No one usually notices the drummer and bass player, but they play just as important a role in the overall sound, and eventually your time will come.
Final thoughts. Some bands have had their time and need to be broken up in order for members to move on to other things. This can be precipitated by events (after the death of Curt Cobain no one really expected Nirvana to continue, and Dave Grohl/ Foo Fighters have gone on to huge success in their own right), or simply that the time has come to stop (See Abba in the 1980s for example). If after consideration this is the case for your collaborative band, then take some time to do it right, because you never know when you might want to come back for a reunion in the future!
Final, final thoughts and a disclaimer – I am an avid music fan with eclectic tastes, but not all the artists mentioned here are necessarily to my taste. I am interested in your thoughts however – what music or artist best represents the challenge of police collaboration in your view – post your answers below!
(The next scheduled PCC elections are just over 2 years away – 2nd May 2024. Plenty of time for prospective candidates to consider their (musical) approach!)