Are You a Keeper or a Mover?


Leaders can be classified into two camps: those whose mission is to make sure everything is kept just the way it is — “keepers” and those whose mission is continuously improve all that they do — “movers.”.

If you had a room full of leaders, how many do you think would fit the first category and how many the second? I bet it’s the 80/20 rule in operation: 80% of leaders would be keepers and 20% movers.

Is that bad? I don’t think so, just as we need police officers who are a little bit of both warriors and guardians, that same is so for their leaders when it comes to keepers and movers — but you have to know at the right time how to do both.

The positive aspects of the police culture, our traditions – honor, duty, integrity, and courage need to be kept, but the WAY in which we do things needs to be continuously improved — moved by movers; those committed to finding the best practices, the most effective ways of organizing and delivering police services.

Here’s one of my stories about keepers and movers. One of the ways in which I, as a chief of police, assessed the kind of person I wanted to lead my officers was, as a part of their promotional process, to pick something important we do and improve it.

One candidate chose traffic enforcement: to reduce the speed of vehicles in our school crossing zones.

The current method at the time was by random, often complaint-driven, radar enforcement. It yielded a lot of expensive, embarrassing citations to a few offenders, but seemed to do little to reduce overall the number of speeding vehicles in school zones.

The project was a good one – how can we slow motor vehicle speeds in all school zones every day and not just when we wrote tickets? This would, therefore, improve the safety of all our school children at every street crossing, not just a few.

He first conducted a radar study indicating the average motor vehicle speeds in a few of our city’s school zones. In these situations, a motorist would encounter a flashing sign stating “20 mph when children are present,” and had to determine if children were really present. There was no visual aid except a flashing sign often operating all day long during school hours.

Next, he constructed a set of large blaze orange plastic traffic cones in which “School Zone” was prominently written on them. He intended to place the cones on the center line of the street before and after the school zone area and measure and tabulate traffic speeds and compared them to school zones without the cones.

Not surprisingly, vehicular speeds were greatly lowered in the school zones with the cones displayed.

His improvement study recommended we train and equip all school crossing guards with a set of the cones and how, when, and where to place them.

This leadership candidate was acting as a “mover.”

Next came the response of the “keepers.” The city traffic engineer (a definite keeper) stated it was illegal to place the cones on the street. A number of fellow officers complained that the officer had run radar and had failed to arrest those who exceeded the speed limit. He was, therefore, derelict in his duty. They, too, were keepers. We thanked the keepers for their input and moved forward to implement the plan.

It took some time, but if you look around today in most every town and city in Wisconsin, you will see cones in the center of the street with “School Zone” on them to warn and alert motorists.

Periodic radar traffic enforcement would have continued to catch a few bad drivers, but the traffic cones alert every driver  passing through a school zone to reduce their speed to 20 mph.

I learned that every well-meaning mover will encounter his or her keepers. But their influence can be neutralized by the fierce persistence and passion of a data-driven mover.

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