Public Safety Insights Newsletter: Are You Espousing Excellence but Settling for Mediocrity?

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January 27, 2016 VOLUME 4, ISSUE 1
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Are You Espousing Excellence but Settling for Mediocrity?
Public Safety Insight: Agencies that claim to aspire to excellence yet fail to set themselves and their employees up for success are letting their communities down.   

The mission and/or vision statements of most public safety organizations make a commitment to service excellence. Providing such service requires leaders to set their agencies and employees up for success rather than for mediocrity. Yet few agencies have developed and implemented a viable succession process that enables them to do so. Instead of maintaining a pool of qualified individuals who are ready, able, and willing to fill critical vacancies throughout the organization, they rely on a replacement approach that’s inconsistent, costly, and often mis-matches people and jobs, to the detriment of public safety.

Public safety agencies exist in a near-constant “white water” state. Battered by years of trying to meet ever-increasing public expectations despite drastically reduced resources, facing unprecedented levels of public scrutiny, trying to meet demands for new and broader ranges of service, and trying to keep up with technological advances, public safety professionals find that the bar for success has been raised dramatically. Yet in most cases, the infrastructure required to prepare them to meet these challenges successfully is missing or woefully inadequate.

A viable succession process sets up individuals and agencies for success in making their communities safe, healthy, and economically viable. It provides a systematic framework within which people are able to get the training and development needed for them to be fully successful in their current and future jobs, both in the field and back in the station or office. It focuses on critical jobs and skills throughout the organization, not just at the top. It enables leaders to deliver on their promise of excellence.

For decades, public safety professionals have bemoaned the lack of viable succession processes in their agencies. Here’s why it’s time for you to put up or shut up when it comes to succession:

  • Lives are at stake – those of employees as well as of the public. The danger is exacerbated when people are not fully qualified for their jobs.
  • You fail your community when you cannot achieve your mission of excellent service.
  • Valuable institutional knowledge is lost when people leave because there is no process to capture and share it.
  • Technically, the growing complexity and range of your scope of work requires specialized expertise. Sending ill-prepared people out to learn on the job is costly and may put them and others in danger.
  • Similarly, new roles and their associated competencies (e.g., educator, political and business acumen) require specialized expertise.
  • You set employees up to fail by not ensuring they are prepared for the jobs they are called upon to perform – in the station or office as well as in the field.
  • By espousing excellence but settling for “good enough,” you erode the public’s trust and undermine employee morale.

This is the time for public safety leaders to stop talking about succession and start doing something about it. Like the ICS, an effective succession process is scalable to the situation and the available resources. Those who continue to offer excuses need to move aside in favor of those willing to make excellent service a reality.

If you’d like some ideas about how to educate yourself and others about the critical need for establishing a viable succession process in your agency, take a look at my articles How to Make a Compelling Case for Implementing a Succession Process and Succession Planning Myths and Realities. To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


©2016 Pat Lynch | Public Safety Insights

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