Structural and Cultural Changes in European Police Forces

Summary of of COMPOSITE's Deliverable 5.2 Second cross-country comparison: Structural & Cultural Changes in European Police Forces, 2014

Karen Elliott, Ad van den Oord & Laszlo Polos (Durham Business School)
1. Introduction
The first cross-country comparison produced preliminary insights into factors influencing successful organizational change. This second comparison extends the preliminary analysis in providing more insight into the process of organizational change, and organizational features (intricacy, opacity and asperity) which influence the likelihood of successful organizational change by exploring the causal linkages between core concepts. This is achieved through a two-stage approach: First, a Qualitative Comparative Analysis (Ragin, 2000) of interview data to explore (1) what kind of changes challenge the taken-for-granted expectations of organizational members, (2) which changes lead to different kinds of opposition, (3) how the opposition to change is resolved, and (4) how the characteristics of the organization (i.e., intricacy, opacity, and asperity) influence the success of organizational change. Second, a core survey developed from the interviews that generated hypotheses which examined all these features with an emphasis on promoting engagement with change projects. Simply put, understanding the factors that impact on the likelihood of successful change outcomes, while adding to organizational change theory development. 
2. Organizational Ecology (OE) and Cognitive Organizational Theory (COT)
Interview data: Our model on organizational change is informed by Organizational Ecology (OE) and Cognitive Organization Theory (COT) (Hannan et al., 2007).  According to OE/COT (or referred to as COT/OE), organizations are governed by two sets of codes - architectural and cultural (codes can be explicit or implicit).   Architectural codes are defined as "rules that state which units have authority over which units" a code that "discriminates between the allowed and disallowed feature values for the organization" (Hannan et al., 2007: 235). In short, similar to physical architecture, these codes impose constraints upon an organization, acting as a source of stability.  However, cultural codes are more complex because they begin as architectural codes which become infused with moral values and norms transforming them into value-laden cultural codes (alternatively, cultural codes develop which are tied to certain architectural codes).  In the context of organizational change because architectural codes are more stable, changing these codes is less problematic whereas, cultural codes are more resilient, and difficult to change (Ibid, 2007). Moreover, those change projects that were completed are reported to have failed to deliver all the expected benefits predicted at the outset of the project initiation and according to a survey administered by McKinsey & Company approximately 70% of all change projects fail (Isern and Pung, 2006). Under certain conditions, change can cascade through an organization disrupting routines and the functional capabilities of the organization.  However, unforeseen (i.e., unplanned) change cascades are more difficult to manage during change and potential effects are a higher likelihood of challenges to members’ taken-for-granted expectations about the organization, termed "code violations" (i.e., challenge the organization’s perceived identity) (Hannan et al., 2007: 236-238). A potential result of these violations is opposition to the change, which may or may not be resolved. A number of factors can influence change cascades and the challenging of expectations, opposition, and resolution i) Magnitude of change; ii) Complexity of change; iii) Organizational intricacy; iv) Organizational opacity; v) Leadership/engagement; and vi) Cultural asperity. We focus on the process of change - expectations challenged, opposition to change/how resolved, and then examine how the cultural process impacted upon the result of change—success or failure using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), see the model below.
Core survey: COT/OE—the organization engages the (internal and external) stakeholders (or audience), in its normal day-to-day business and routine behaviour. The products of this behaviour (i.e., the organization’s offerings) receive or generate a certain level of support by and resistance from its audience. At some point, the organization (or its management) perceives a mismatch between its offerings and the expectations of the audience. The organization adjusts its offering, by redesigning parts of itself (e.g., products, services, structure, processes, technology, leadership, etc.). This is done in an effort to correspond to the perceived expectations of its audience, and increase the intrinsic appeal of the organization to its audience. The ease with which this can actually be accomplished depends upon the structure and characteristics of its audience. Following the re-organization, an organization has to re-engage the audience to present its new offering, to materialize on the change and transform the intrinsic appeal of its new offering into actual appeal. For example, the organization has to introduce the new product in the market to satisfy consumer expectations, or implement changes in its structure to increase efficiency of operations to satisfy senior management’s expectations.  The change process takes time to be accepted by the audience (support and resistance), especially if the new offering is a highly innovative and/or radical change to the status quo. Once actual appeal is stabilized and a new equilibrium between support and resistance has been found, the effect of the change in offering can actually be assessed—the difference in performance pre and post the change (see the model below).
3. Data and methods
Interview data: 161 structured interviews were conducted with police interviewees within 16 different police forces, in the ten participating countries providing 316 evaluations of change projects (September 2012 – January 2013). This resulted in 180 change projects (i.e., 180 cases), providing a total of 316 evaluations of change project drawn from 161 interviews giving an average of 1.75 evaluations per change project or case. QCA is employed as both an approach (towards defining a research strategy) and a methodological technique. The approach allows the researcher to envisage the "dialogue between ideas and evidence" (Ragin, 1989). We employ 'fuzzy set' QCA (fsQCA) whose basic premise is that fuzzy sets allow scaling of membership score, and thus also allow the examination of partial as well as full or non-membership of a set (i.e., change projects—success: 1; partial success: 0.5; failure: 0).
To achieve this we have a number of outcome measures in our study:
  • Primary outcome measure: the success of organizational change. Evaluations of the change were then averaged per reported change project (interviewees can report/evaluate the same change project) and this is depicted as two variants of measurement (success and high success)
  • Second outcome variable: code violations
  • Third outcome variable: opposition
  • Fourth outcome variable: resolution
In some of our analysis, our outcome variables function as independent measures. We viewed change complexity as a measurement of the number of types of organizational aspects that the change impacts upon therefore, creating these types through coding the formal name, the informal name, and the description of the change project given by the interviewee i) Structure: Change to configuration of organizational units; ii) Process: Change to the workings of the organization; change in how things are done (procedures); iii) Strategy: Change in what is done (interaction with environment); iv) Technology: Change in tools; v) Personnel: Change in the people of the organization; vi) Leadership: Change in the management or staffing thereof; vii) Culture: Change in beliefs and values (mindset; meaning). There are also a number of organizational features; i) intricacy that measures the number of units plus the number of relationship reported by the interviewee; ii) transparency measuring the average percentage of information sharing between units reported by the interviewees; iii) asperity measures the inverse of the reported creative problem solving multiplied by the average number of expectations reported by the interviewee (asked respondents to list the expectation they have with respect to their police force); iv) engagement/leadership is measured using the average evaluation of the police chief on the basis of a number of questions; and v) change magnitude is measured as the average of the number of people that under the interviewee that had to change their routines as a result of changes to the police force (this does not refer to the specific change, but applied to the police force in general)—calibrated using  fully in, crossover, fully out in fsQCA.
Core survey: The data was collected through an online and paper-based survey distributed to individual participants during September and October 2013. In total, 3,516 respondents were captured across Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.  We focused on a single change per organization, so that all members can evaluate the same change effects and we can compare their evaluations. The underlying assumption is the dyad of reorganization-project-organizational-member, represent a unique change project:
  • Implementation can be different
  • Engagement can be different
We make a distinction between three different kinds of models, namely (i) a conceptual model that captures our propositions about the relationships between our concepts, (ii) a measurement model which describes the way in which our concepts are operationalized and turned into constructs that allow us to form our conjectures, and finally (iii) a validated model that only includes reliable constructs that will be used to test our hypotheses.
4. Discussion and recommendations
Interview data: from the fsQCA of the interview data we found evidence to support the Cognitive Organization Theory on organizational change in particular:
  • Configurational analysis of COT/OE: demonstrated by the dual role of cultural asperity in the success of organizational change. 
  • Subsequent analysis could operationalize success of organizational change by taking into account code violations, opposition, and resolution: highest success is achieved where there are no code violations and no opposition; where there are code violations but no opposition; code violations with opposition that is resolved, and finally code violations with opposition that is unresolved. However, given the consistency of our findings, we do not expect to find significantly different results. 
  • The COT/OE model can also be extended: i) refining the measurement of the different constructs, and; ii) include additional variables.
  • Regression analysis: can be employed to examine significance criteria.
Core survey data: we found the following evidence to support our models and hypotheses:
  • The validity of our core conceptual model of appeal, engagement, behavioural adaptation, and outcome evaluation is confirmed.
  • We do not find a moderating effect of engagement on the relationship between intrinsic and actual appeal (this was not part of our conceptual model, but added to our measurement model at a later stage).
  • Regarding our COT propositions: the results are clearly mixed—both opacity and viscosity have a negative effect on intrinsic appeal. In contrast, intricacy has a positive effect on intrinsic appeal, while asperity has both a positive and a negative effect on intrinsic appeal. These findings can be interpreted as follows.  The dual role of asperity was also found in our fsCQA analysis, and is therefore unsurprising.  What is left to explain is the positive effect of intricacy on intrinsic appeal.  An obvious reason is that the concepts of intricacy, asperity, viscosity, and intricacy were originally conceived at the organizational level, and intricacy clearly cannot be readily applied at the individual level. This leaves us with two courses of action. First, we need to reinterpret the meaning of intricacy at the level of an organizational member, and, second, we need to aggregate the COT variables to the organization(al unit) level and estimate multilevel models.
Practical implications: there are a number of practical implications that can be drawn from our results:
  • Intrinsic appeal has a stronger effect than engagement (or leadership) on actual appeal. This makes perfect sense. After all, a supportive, fair, and empathic executioner would not change the ultimate outcome of any execution. However, future research is needed to determine whether this is indeed (statistically) the case.
  • COT variables (intricacy, opacity, asperity, and viscosity): a practical suggestion to opaque (non-transparent) organizations would be to devote sufficient time and resources during the planning stage of the organizational change, to negate the impact of opacity, and to make sure that the proposed changes are aligned with the audience's expectations. The dual role of asperity we feel is particularly interesting and our modified proposition regarding the role of asperity is as follows. In organizations with high cultural asperity, changes that are aligned with audience expectations are implemented easily, while changes misaligned with audience expectations are resisted heavily. Finally, the negative effect of organizational viscosity implies that changes to sluggish organizations are more threatening, and also require an additional devotion of resources during both the planning and implementation stages of change projects.
  • We also want to point out that the persistent negative effects of the magnitude of change and externally originated changes on intrinsic appeal, actual appeal, behavioural adaptation, and outcome evaluation. Again, care should be taken when implementing large scale change that were originated outside of the organization, as these result in more attitudinal and behavioural resistance, and decreases the evaluation of the change.