In April 2011 Peter Marshall was just days into his new role as Commissioner of New Zealand Police and was already having to defend his organisation. The latest in a series of reports assessing the progress of Police towards changing its culture had presented a damning verdict that there was little evidence of change at all. This came three years after a Commission of Inquiry into more than 300 allegations of sexual assault against members of the police dating back to the 1970s. Marshall’s predecessor, Howard Broad, had accepted the Inquiry’s findings in full and took responsibility for implementing the 47 recommendations for Police. A key challenge in an apparent disconnect between senior management, and frontline staff and middle management. Few felt “engaged” in their job or that the organisation cared about their wellbeing, views and opinions. Marshall, however, believed that the definition of “culture” in reports had been loose and that while there were important areas for improvement, Police had a strong culture overall. Constant monitoring could be doing more harm than good, but the Police Minister and others were still demanding delivery on the recommendations and promised to hold Marshall accountable.
The case can be taught on its own or in association with Leading culture change at New Zealand Police (case 2008-082), which describes how the previous Police Commissioner handled the issue. It discusses culture change and leadership under political scrutiny and the difficulties in managing change in a complex organisational structure.
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