Recently, the Charleston, SC, announced a 25 percent drop in violent crimes. I learned from Margaret Siedler of Power Surge that they credit much of their success in reducing crime to an intensive strategic planning process that involved polarity thinking.
Their strategic plan states that “In using Polarity Management, we recognized that the work of keeping our community safe is complex and we must address a series of chronic, ongoing problems by viewing them from a broad perspective. What are polarities? Polarities are sets of interdependent pairs [that] while competing actually need each other over time to achieve and sustain success. ”
Their five strategic directions, based on these “pairs”, are
- Law Enforcement AND Community Support
- Department’s Interests AND Citizens’ Interests
- Operational Commitments AND Education/Training
- Get What We Need AND Take Care of What We Have
- End User Needs/Capabilities AND Organizational Needs for Innovation
Their strategic plan came from working to get the best of each sides of these opposing needs or focuses. Not easy, but well worth the work, as their results show.What does this police department have to do with you? Take a close look at their strategic directions. Chances are, a few apply to your organization, if you consider the related generic versions:
- Teaching obedience AND fostering growth
- Individual AND Community
- Doing the Work AND Preparing to Do the Work
- Focus on New AND Focus on Tried and True
- Our Team’s Capacity AND Our Organization’s Needs
It’s all too easy to plan and devise action steps as if these areas are problems to solve when in fact the key, as Charleston shows, is coming up with strategies that leverage the values of each side. What key polarities are involved in your organization? Are you “solving” them or acknowledging that each pole holds an incomplete version of what works?