The Golden Years

I have written in the past about the fantastic decade of police and overall government, educational and private sector improvement in Madison, Wisconsin beginning in the mid-1980s. I continue to call this period a “golden age.” I say this because it could have provided a way forward for the continuous improvement of police and city services. Sadly, it did not.

And the reason it did not will either fall upon my generation’s failure to pass the torch — or the unwillingness of young leaders to grasp onto it. You can decide.

Now, a number of leaders in the Madison area who were actively involved in this city-wide experiment in turning the ideas of Dr. W. Edwards Deming into operational practice have come together to share their powerful stories. 

I had the opportunity to write the first chapter in this important book regarding our efforts to develop police services which were truly community and customer-oriented.

Here’s an excerpt from my chapter and the way in which we leaned how to “bend granite;” that is, effectively leading customer-focused organizational change:

“Community policing empowers people both to solve their own problems and to work together with police to solve problems collaboratively.

“In this model, police officers are less enforcers and more keepers of the
peace—as in keeping everyone safer. This was the vision of policing that
I had when I became the chief of police in Madison. And the community policing principles such as decentralized decision-making, listening to our ‘customers,’ seeking root causes, and using data for decision-making were the embodiment of quality management. But even the founder of what came to be known as ‘the quality improvement’ movement, W. Edwards Deming, doubted that this kind of approach would work
in government. Yet the years the city of Madison began implementing
Deming’s ideas into its police and other city services were golden. And
that is not just in my biased opinion. 

“I love this definition:

‘Quality is a comprehensive approach to the organization and the design of work processes. It is a way to think about stuff. It is a way to treat each other. It is a way to constantly improve everything we lay our hands on.’ (Cheaney and Cotter, 1991)

“I served as Madison’s chief of police from 1972 to 1993. I call them
the ‘golden years.’ Those days were a time when unique, challenging
ideas about systems, teams of people, and work caught fire and raised
the hearts, spirit, and productivity of city workers. Many of us who
were able to integrate these new ideas about systems, teams, and work
saw the positive results. The universal principles of leading change by focusing on systematic improvement that had such positive impacts then are the very ones needed now in every sector of our country. Here is my story…”

You can purchase the book HERE.

Enjoy — and, perhaps revisit these methods and values and use them and the lessons we learned along the way to put trust back into our nation’s policing.

Top Leaders Praise Bending Granite —

“Written with simple clarity, Bending Granite shows how leaders at every level can bring people together to change the world. This path is there for the taking.” — Peter Block, author, The Empowered Manager; Stewardship; and The Abundant Community

“Take it from people who changed the world — from Gandhi to Oprah: The best way to make a lesson memorable is to tell a riveting story that embodies it. Bending Granite does just that, with strategies and inspiration for people ready to transform their organizations around them.” — Donna Shalala, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

“Bending Granite illustrates through true stories how the power of real people working together can transform a community.” — Michelle Mason, President and CEO, ASAE and the Center for Associational Leadership

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