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“We need to own our organization”

Commr. Brenda Lucki on employees, engagement and empathy

Commr. Brenda Lucki says consultation and kindness are key to modernizing the RCMP. Credit: Serge Gouin, RCMP

In an interview with Gazette magazine, Commr. Brenda Lucki talks about her vision for the organization, her priorities and what matters most to employees.

Since becoming Commissioner, what's your focus?

People, people and people. And when I say people, it's not just about employees. It's about people in communities, and people who are doing the job of keeping Canada safe.

Let's talk about Vision150. You describe this as a road map for the RCMP's next five years. How would you summarize its goal?

Vision150 is our plan to modernize the RCMP. It's about putting people first, so we can provide the best service we can to communities, to keep Canadians safe and secure. Part of that is looking at all the mechanisms to get us there — our people, our culture, our stewardship and our policing services. If we invest in all of those pillars, that should drive us toward policing excellence and a safer Canada.

You've said Vision150 is a process, not a buzz word. Would you explain that?

This isn't a project, it's a constant process. It's the way we conduct ourselves, and it's the way we need to do business. We should always be modernizing, innovating and finding better ways of doing things. I think the Vision150 process is, in many ways, more important than the results. I say that because a key part of the process is consulting with people, giving them a voice, and asking what they think. We can't go forward until we figure out what's on people's minds, and what their main concerns are. We'll get to the results — that's the icing on the cake. But I think people need to feel valued and heard first. That's why we started the innovation inbox: to ask people what they think.

You listed Our People first as part of this plan. What does that pillar mean to you?

It means empowering people, engaging people, and doing everything we can to build trust. If you're not in a trusting environment, it's hard to feel comfortable speaking your mind. Once people trust the process and what we're doing, we need to engage them. With our innovation inbox, for example, I had no idea how many people would submit ideas. My goal was 100 emails. Now, we have well over 2,000 emails, and in those, more than 7,000 or 8,000 suggestions. That means people still care.

How else can employees have a say in improving the RCMP?

We need to own our organization. I can't own it by myself. When I started as Commissioner, people would say, "Oh, I'm so glad you're going to fix it." First of all, going on record, it's not broken. Don't get me wrong, there are things we need to change and modernize. But it has to be all hands on deck. Whether you're a deputy, a detachment commander, a constable, a dispatcher or a first-level detachment service assistant, we all have to look at Vision150 and ask, "How do I fit into that?" We have to work together if we want to turn the ship around.

So far, what have employees told you matters to them?

It seems that everything that starts with a P is what matters: Pay, promotion, pants, Phoenix, parking! These are near and dear to everybody's heart.

When they bring these concerns to you, how do you respond?

We look at all concerns in an empathetic way. We put ourselves in their shoes. I'll give you an example. When we see suggestions in the innovation inbox about changes to uniform, our first reaction might be to roll our eyes and say, "We already have pants you can order." But when you rewind, how can you fault a member for wanting to be comfortable and look good in uniform? You can't. It's called pride. Instead of thinking we can't change our kit, we should look at why our members want changes. Maybe the uniform we're providing isn't practical from coast to coast to coast. So we need to look at various options that can work for the job, while still looking professional.

Building on that, what concrete measures are underway to modernize the RCMP?

The big thing now is getting new ideas out there and testing them. I'm learning that we've been so stuck on, that we never get things done. We need to start accepting things that are good, and work towards making them better along the way. It goes back to the idea that modernization, and Vision150, is a constant process. We have a lot of projects underway.

We've reviewed the uniform and dress manual. We've taken out any reference to gender so we can be more inclusive. We're looking at finding a more breathable fabric, and maybe a dark blue shirt.

We're looking at the whole harassment process and making it more transparent so that people feel that it's a fair process for both the victims and the subject of the complaint. We have to make sure everybody gets heard. And it has to be more timely. Same with our conduct process.

On the operational side, we're looking at the connected cop. Making sure that each front-line member has a phone in their hands so we can keep them safe, and provide them with access to PROS (Police Reporting and Occurrence System), PRIME (Police Records Information Management Environment), the Canadian Police Information Centre and recording devices.

We're working on the mental health side, adding a psychological assessment to our periodic health assessments. The goal is to support people who are struggling early on, because they may not even know they're hurting.

We've recently announced the interim management advisory board. That's going to be a great mechanism for us to tell our story and get good sound advice from people who look at things differently and who are experts in their field.

For every single decision we make, we need to look at it through the lens of people first. How is it affecting our culture? We need to use evidence-based decision-making. And we have all kinds of experts inside the RCMP who can help us make those decisions.

For instance, we're looking at changing our sidearm. Say we want to move from the 10-pound trigger pull to the 6-pound trigger pull. What's the evidence that supports that? People might say we're lowering our standards. But maybe our standards weren't right in the first place. If we can still have a safe side arm and go down to a 6-pound trigger pull, then we've made it more inclusive for people who are small in stature. It's about making our equipment, our dress, our policies and our procedures more inclusive.

How will you share all these improvements, big or small, with employees?

Each one of the senior executives will be owning the objectives under each pillar. They will make sure that progress is communicated regularly. Also, I'll be getting out and talking to people through town halls.

A lot of it's going to be on the Infoweb — our employee website. At the bottom of the page is a light bulb for the innovation inbox. That's where employees can send in their suggestions and find out more about Vision150.

If you could tell employees one message for 2019, what would it be?

#bekind. To be kind to somebody, you need to be empathetic and think about how that person feels. If we were to treat everybody like they were our mother, our brother, our sister, our father, I think it would change the way we look at things. Being positive is part of it. Our job in the RCMP is hard enough as it is, we don't need to criticize each other. If we could just take that one breath and be kind to one another, I think it would be a good step forward.

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