Blue Line

Organizational Change Process through Risk M

June 18, 2012  By Michael Barnhart

In today’s world of rapid changing economic realities, the need for organizations to be able to shift and adapt has never been more important. Policing, like all public sector services, is not immune and is arguably the most exposed due to the ever increasing share of tax dollars needed to fund our current service delivery model.

The policing profession must embrace organizational change management, ensuring that changes reflect the ongoing desire for improved efficiencies in support of the service’s strategic plan, which ultimately supports taxpayer expectations.

This task is easier said than done, for policing’s strength is also its greatest weakness. As a paramilitary organization, we draw our focus and determination through structure but have looked at change as a potential hazard. This is where the risk management approach to organizational change becomes useful.

Normally the need for change is identified either at the top (the executive level has a greater global view) or bottom (members who ‘live’ in the environment and personally experience the need for change). The top has more impact when articulating and initiating the need for change than the bottom. As a result, top down change management receives a limited degree of acceptance by front line workers; many feel there’s a disconnection between their world and that of the executive team.


Peel Regional Police, Integrated Risk Management (IRM) has taken a different approach in affecting organizational change through a process called Area Risk Self-Assessment (ARS). With this approach, the concerns our executive team identify create the parameters that the ARS team will use to develop its own change management plan.

The ARS process is initially driven by direction from our Risk Management Committee (RMC), which consists of the chief (chair), the three deputy chiefs, general counsel (acting in an advisory role) and IRM unit members, who also act in an advisory role. The RMC identify areas of concern within the organization (often identified through emerging operational themes) and then direct IRM to initiate an ARS in that unit or bureau.

IRM members then meet with the officer/manager–in-charge of that specific unit and outline RMC concerns and inform them that their area will be the subject of an ARS. The rationale behind this process is that the most effective risk managers are those who actively work in the environment where the risk exists and thus should develop the strategies to manage change.

A cross-disciplinary working group consisting of a sampling of members from each of the areas primary functions and ranks is selected from the subject unit. Normally, these working groups have 10 to 15 members. The officer/manager-in-charge is appointed as the work group chair and the IRM and our Organizational Process Management (OPM) units are also represented in the workgroup.

IRM and OPM members are embedded so they may act as coaches for the self-assessment process and assist in identifying and mapping out the area’s key processes. The chair then explores the concerns and observations related to the identified theme from the cross disciplinary team, with an ultimate goal of developing an effective mitigation strategy for each risk the workgroup identifies.

Generally, this process lasts between four and eight weeks and could involve bi-weekly meetings, depending on the theme’s complexity. The team is responsible for agreeing on and drafting a mitigation strategy to address each of the issues they identify (normally six to 10 though there is no upper limit). With this approach, members at the operational level have full carriage and ownership of the change management process.

Even with a cross-disciplinary team in place, all team members expect to seek input from all other unit members (in between the scheduled meetings) to help in developing possible mitigation strategies. For this process to be fully effective, Peel has found all unit members need to have a voice as it relates to identifying risks and proposing potential solutions.

After workgroup meetings conclude, the chair, with help from IRM members, enters the issues, proposed mitigation strategies and a target for completion dates into our electronic ARS program, which stores and tracks the data to provide a corporate memory. The program also includes several project management tools that the chair may wish to use when tracking the progress of various mitigation strategies.

Once submitted, the embedded IRM member present the report during the subsequent RMC meeting (they are held monthly), thus ensuring an expeditious review and (where appropriate) approval of the mitigation plans. Once approved, the assessed area is responsible for implementing the mitigation plans.

This approach has ensured that the concerns identified at the operational level are presented as originally drafted to the executive team. Members of the assessed area feel they have a voice and direct input into the changes required to ensure the high level of effectiveness expected of their unit. Each member therefore becomes their own risk manager and fully embraces the organizational change because ultimately it’s a change in which they have all had an active hand.


Insp. Michael Barnhart is the OiC of Risk Management with Peel Regional Police. Contact him at for more information.

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