By Jessica Crossfield, MBA2021
This year, 143 MBA2021 students delivered 32 LondonCAP group consulting projects for clients virtually. Here, Jessica Crossfield speaks about how her team developed a strategy to improve and enhance the culture within the Metropolitan Police.
Among the plethora of options for experiential learning offered at LBS, LondonCAP offers MBA students a terrific opportunity to apply and test their learning in a real-life setting with companies across a range of sectors including financial services, technology, retail and the public sector.
This year, I delivered a virtual LondonCAP project for the Metropolitan Police Service (hereafter ‘the Met’). The Met is London’s police force, responsible for providing law enforcement across the 32 boroughs, leading UK-wide counter-terrorism efforts, and protecting the royal family. The Met is the largest police force in the UK, and one of the largest in the world. COVID-19 aside, the scope of policing has changed dramatically in recent years. The communities that police protect are increasingly diverse and complex, and the landscape of crimes has shifted to include cyber-crimes and cyber-terrorism. These changes combined with a recent reorganization of the Met have put a strain on the members of the force and subsequently its culture.
To receive support on adapting to these new challenges, the Met reached out to LBS with the intention to co-create a strategy to improve and enhance the culture which had become increasing fraught, with individual and interpersonal mental health issues and generally decreased workplace satisfaction. The project was managed through the LondonCAP programme, where we worked as a team of four under the guidance of Richard Hytner, a professor at LBS and a member of the executive board of the Met Police. In typical LBS fashion, my team came from a range of backgrounds (investment banking, engineering, and project management) and nationalities (UK, Germany, and USA).
Our first week on the project, we met with Marcus Barnett, the Detective Chief Superintendent of the Central East Borough Command Unit (BCU). Marcus was new to the role, and wanted our help turning his vision for the BCU into a reality. He created a framework to support the culture transformation, asking us to gather information and make recommendations in four key areas: culture, communication, care, and capability. We were given years of written feedback and survey data regarding the culture at the Met, and we were connected with leaders in various parts of the organization who would coordinate interviews and ride-a-longs, so we could get a firsthand view of the daily challenges faced by the officers and employees, particularly of those on the frontline.
Shortly after our first meeting with the Met in late February, COVID-19-related lockdowns were announced throughout the world, changing the scope and feasibility of our project dramatically. Marcus, and the Met more broadly, had to quickly adapt to the new pandemic world we are living in – creating COVID-friendly operations to ensure the safety of officers and employees, responding to an increased number of domestic violence and cyber-security crimes, and enforcing the lockdown measures throughout London. As such, Richard took on a more central role in our project. As a member of the board with many connections throughout the organization, he was able to set up interviews for us with leaders and officers in different units throughout the Met.
For the next two months, we aimed to interview two people each week in order to identify and assess current and developing pain points. Our interviews were staggered across levels and job functionalities. Before our first interviews, we spent time researching police culture and reading through the surveys that the Met provided us. Then, we developed a few hypotheses regarding the culture that we were able to test through our interviews. We came together as a group after each interview to debrief and revise our hypothesis, in order to continue drilling down to the core issues. We met with Richard on a bi-weekly basis where we discussed our findings and got guidance on what to assess next.
We used the insight from our interviews to develop a strategy on how the Met can take advantage of the crisis to reinvent the culture. We came up with nine specific, actionable recommendations regarding officer autonomy, communication, and learning and development, providing a pathway to improving the everyday experience and wellbeing of officers. Our recommendations were very well-received by the leadership team we presented to on our last day! The leadership team included Nick Ephgrave, Assistant Commissioner, who is on the board and is one of the most senior officers in the Met.
It was abundantly clear throughout this project that being a leader in the Met is not an easy job – there are constantly crises to respond to making it difficult to push forward less urgent ideas or actions. Given that, we are all hugely impressed at how thoughtful and forward-thinking the Met is. We had to revise our recommendations countless times because the Met had already tried to implement what we thought were unique solutions! Coming from a large corporate, it was an enlightening experience to see the inner workings of such a high-profile public sector organization. LondonCAP has been the highlight of my MBA so far – it was incredibly interesting and rewarding to work with an amazing team and to support the Met through such chaotic times.