Moving from Good to Great

When it comes to police reform, improvement, or re-imaging, I have a sense that I have been on this “bus;” a bus which has been stalled for too many years. When will it start moving forward?

The circular route has seen too many of the same incidents, the same abuse, the same chokes, the same shootings followed by outrage, protests, local study groups, national commissions, and more outrage— again and again — with few lasting improvements. The bus appears to be stalled.

Two decades ago, organizational consultant Jim Collins wrote this in his book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t.”

“The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, ‘Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.’” (

In my own experience in Madison, when, thanks to senior officers retiring, we were able to get the “right people” hired and on the bus to replace them. It was only then that the “bus” was able to move forward in the direction I wanted it to go.

Improving American police is going to be a long term process, most likely decades long before the right people find a seat on the bus. Retirements and attrition will be the opportunity to select, train the right people and get them on the bus. Only then will policing start moving to someplace great. That is when the direction of the bus is towards continuous and constant improvement in everything they do. Citizens must be active participants in this process and buy into the possibility of greatness. It is far too important to leave this solely to the police.

It’s now time to begin to ignite this needed transformation!