Culture, Courage, and Results
Engaging all facets of public safety to bring about meaningful change by building a culture inside that creates public trust outside™
What We Focus on in Public Safety
As skilled project managers, Perme & Peterson Associates provide services customized to your specific needs in the public safety industry, including the areas listed below. Our process supports your change and development efforts to get the most out of your valuable time.
What Public Safety Officials Say
We’re proud of what public safety officials say about us and our work with them!
Highly Engaged Strategic Planning
- Our hall-mark is designing and facilitating highly-engaged strategic planning processes to fit your needs and resources. We work with staff and stakeholders alike to gather input, identify strategic priorities, and align your organization for successful implementation.
- Because “culture eats strategy for lunch,” we often conduct a culture analysis prior to any strategic planning. By gaining a shared understanding of what your department’s culture is today and what it needs to be, we can help you more clearly define your strategic priorities and focus on what matters most. In addition, we can design your planning process to start changing the culture immediately as you plan.
Creating and Implementing a Strong Vision
In 2011, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association (MCPA) was at a crossroads. It had started in 1954 as a resource for chiefs of police and chief law enforcement officers around the state, to provide training, networking, and a policy voice. But it had become a “good ole boys” club — its annual training conference was as much about cigars and smoke-filled rooms and as it was about learning new techniques and equipment options.
But things were changing in Minnesota. “Baby-boomer” chiefs were retiring, and their replacements were often unprepared for the job. The need for consistent professionalism and standards for police executives became clear as unethical behavior brought a spate of chief firings around the state. And because of the challenging economy (this was the Great Recession, after all) cities and towns were looking at mergers or contracts with other jurisdictions to reduce their expenses as well as help solve these problems.
We were hired by the Board to facilitate strategic planning. They wanted to craft a vision for MCPA and establish a strategic direction for the organization. We developed a membership survey that measured satisfaction and engagement with MCPA, and asked chiefs what they needed from the association. We facilitated a planning team that reflected the diversity of their membership, with chiefs from small and large departments, as well as rural, suburban, and city departments.
The vision they created for 2020 was an expansive one:
- Providing proactive, cutting-edge training to CLEO’s and their command staffs so that they could meet the challenges of today and tomorrow
- Statewide leadership for professional law enforcement and a strong legislative voice to guide effective and ethical policy development
- Strong support for CLEO’s as they led their departments, from initial promotion to succession planning
- Leveraging technology to make this accessible to even the most rural and remote departments in the state.
MCPA made steady progress with this vision over the next 10 years, with tactical plans that guided decisions and action. Every three years or so, they rehired us to help them refresh their strategic plan with member input, and used the same baseline survey to track their progress over time.
By 2020, MCPA had truly accomplished almost everything they set out to do! But then, the pandemic hit and the social unrest resulting from George Floyd’s death challenged the Association to reassess its role. What was needed to support both its member Chiefs and the state of Minnesota in professional policing, with integrity and innovation?
Having recently finished that planning process with them (all done virtually!) and knowing their commitment to their profession and their values, we look forward to seeing MCPA’s voice emerge even more strongly in the future for equitable and effective policing in MN.
Planning for a Strong Future Direction
In a recent project, the Command Staff of a suburban police department recognized they would have a lot of leadership changes in the next 5 years. They wanted to create strong direction and develop leaders for succession by updating their mission, providing a clear vision, and defining their core values. They asked us to help them develop a strategic plan starting with an assessment of their workplace culture. That ultimately informed the leadership on their need to provide a unified message to staff. Through high employee engagement, the entire agency was included in the planning process; all employees additionally had the chance to help shape the goals of the department over the next 3 years. As a result, agency leaders were more united in their communication to staff and went forward with well-defined targets for department development.
Culture Assessment & Roadmaps for Change
- We all want to work for an organization that values our effort and brings out the best in us. That’s why we START with an agency cultural assessment, to help you identify the kind of culture that is needed to attract and retain excellent officers and staff and produce outstanding police service.
- We use research-based tools to help you identify and measure your current culture and your ideal culture, and work with you to develop proven roadmaps for change that unite top leaders and engage staff in building ownership in culture change.
- By building a culture inside that creates public trust outside™, we help you keep valued employees and recruit exceptional candidates.
Avoiding “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch!”
In a mid-size public safety organization, new leaders needed a strategic plan to deal with increasing demand for services, staff turnover, and questions regarding public safety. The only problem was that “strategic planning” had a bad name and no one wanted to do it!
We conducted a limited culture study and found that the overall culture was highly passive-defensive, with Avoidance being a core theme. Focus groups and interviews shed light on the situation — there was great fear of making a wrong decision, which translated into pushing decisions up the organization. As a result, decision-making often took too long and most decision were made in a crisis.
For strategic planning to be effective, they would need to model effective decision making. We helped them get ready to plan by: (1) defining and committing to a “From-To” organizational culture shift; (2) clarifying their leadership/management roles and responsibilities; and (3) clarifying their decision-making structure. Then we worked with the leadership team and the rest of the organization a highly engaged manner that avoided reinforcing defensive cultural styles (which is easy to do inadvertently) and focused on facilitating new experiences that built the culture they wanted to create. In other words, we now knew what to target, and we could design planning processes that supported “mutual learning and shared experiences,” which is what Edgar Schein calls the key to culture change.
Retaining Employees in Tough Times
In 2012, as the economy was beginning to emerge from the Great Recession, the leaders of a high-tech law enforcement agency were getting worried. This agency provided key background support and tools for law enforcement personnel to do their jobs in the field. The leaders were hearing rumblings that their highly-specialized staff were looking at jobs in the private sector that paid much more than the agency could afford in the public sector. The leaders knew that if they lost these employees and their expertise, the agency would be hampered in their ability to serve the law enforcement community well until they rebuilt.
Wondering what they could to do retain the talent they had, they agreed to conduct a cultural assessment of their organization, with the realization that employee satisfaction and motivation was a byproduct of a healthy culture. We used the research-based tools from Human Synergistics, Inc. to both assess the current and ideal cultures and identify the key levers for change. We also conducted focus groups of employees to validate the findings and perhaps explain some of the “why’s”.
What we learned was that most employees were committed to the mission of the organization and public service, but highly frustrated by their lack of involvement in decisions and practices that involved them. They were worried about the quality of their and the organization’s work, and felt that their voices weren’t being heard. This resulted in low satisfaction and the need to protect themselves.
The management team shared these results with the organization and pledged to change this – which they did immediately by involving the whole department in creating a development plan that became a part of their overall strategic plan. They also created a cross-department culture committee co-chaired by the top leader and an employee who was one of the most vocal critics at that point. The committee’s job was to monitor the progress of culture change and make recommendations for new practices and refinements, which happened.
Fast forward 3 years later – 2015. The agency redid its organizational assessment and compared the results. Employee satisfaction and intention to stay had risen significantly and was now above average even against research benchmarks. They did not lose many staff, and several actually returned to the agency!
Today, the agency is still focused on creating a constructive culture and has become much more adaptable, developing and rolling out new tools for the law enforcement community that increases their speed and effectiveness. And they still love their mission!
- Often someone is promoted to a leadership role without the training and coaching needed to be successful as a truly effective Sergeant, Lieutenant, Commander, or Chief.
- We have the tools and team members to help leaders at all levels of the agency develop their abilities in coaching employees, increasing their impact, and becoming a more cohesive team leader.
Enhancing Leaders' Impacts on Culture
Two Police Chiefs, one from a large department and one from a small suburban department, wanted to engage in professional development. They each completed a 360° assessment tool designed for leaders to receive feedback from their employees on the type of impact their leadership style has on the culture of the department.
This tool included invitations to twelve others within their circle (their supervisor, peers, and staff from various levels of the organization) to provide feedback on their impact, as well as the ability to assess their perception of their impact. Each Chief received a detailed report and debrief about their current impact, how they compared to a research benchmark of other leaders, and what they could do immediately to have a more constructive impact on the culture of the department. They then worked with us to create an individualized action plan for themselves to do just that,
This small investment of time and money gave them valuable (if not hard to hear) insight and honest feedback that leaders often want, but seldom get. After completing the 360° culture impact assessment and coaching, one Chief said that his way of leading would be “forever changed” by this experience.
Helping Leaders Create a Constructive Culture
A police department was experiencing internal conflict, affecting employee morale, teamwork, and their ability to successfully engage in community policing. This also effected how services were performed and how the community perceived the police department. A survey was done to determine the issues and problems; clear expectations at all levels of the organization were a large contributor to the agency’s difficulties. As a result, all managers in the chain of command were given leadership and management coaching and training, clear expectations were put in place, and everyone in the department received community policing training. Within a year, the department’s internal conflicts lessened, teamwork improved, and the police department received a National Community Policing award. The success of the department continues through focus on effective management and leadership to create and maintain a constructive work culture.
Efficiency and Effectiveness (i.e., Paperwork!)
- We often hear public safety agencies are overwhelmed with complex paperwork issues, outdated systems, and burdensome reporting requirements.
- We provide facilitation and expertise to help you streamline processes and free up valuable employee time for what really matters.
- We believe in building capacity – we will train a group of your employees on how to do process improvement, which includes helping them through their own hands-on example to apply the tools and methods.
Speeding Up Service while Improving Public Safety
The MN Private Detective & Protective Agenda Services Board (PD/PA Board) decided that it wanted to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and speed of its administrative processes for issuing and re-issuing licenses for private detectives and security firms in MN. There was a frustration on the part of applicants and board members alike with the length of time it took to get a license issued or reissued – often more than 4-6 months! As part of the process improvement effort, the Board also wanted to identify areas for potential changes in statute and administrative rules that have outlived their usefulness, since neither had been changed for more than twenty years.
The PD/PA Board redesigned its core processes in less than 10 weeks, with the help of a 10-person design team composed of industry representatives, current and past board members, internal staff, and a rep from a similar type of board. The design team met for a total of 2 ½ days over that time frame, with meetings solely focused on decision-making since all the data gathering was facilitated by two highly experienced process consultants – Cathy Perme and her associate.
The results? The newly designed processes strengthened public safety and license holder accountability, while eliminating burdensome regulations and outdated requirements. The new processes empowered staff to approve routine license renewals, and focused the board on exercising its judgment on new applications and stickier situations. Today, renewals take less than two weeks to approve and new applications less than two months. In addition, the Board has improved public safety by rooting out unethical practitioners.
Officer and Staff Wellness
- Your employees are better equipped to serve their community when there are healthy work practices to support them. We can help you cultivate a realistic and practical approach to imbed healthy habits into everyday work life and provide a better service to your community.
- Building resilience within your employees under stressful conditions is also an area which can improve the efficiency of your organization. Our methods are customized to best fit your agency’s needs.
Employee wellness is the health of the person inside and outside of the workplace. It is about the organization AND the individual focusing on whole wellbeing together: physical, mental, spiritual, professional, and financial. When wellness is supported in these zones, resilience is increased, the working environment improves, and the ability to make meaning of one’s circumstances is strengthened. Together, these factors create a productive, efficient, and encouraging workplace culture while extending wellbeing into home life.
“They were organized, timely, and thorough — very professional!”
— Client Feedback
“We valued their insight and support, and their willingness to provide an objective view.”
— Client Feedback
Our Qualifications in Public Safety
Cathy is a change agent with deep experience in whole system change. She has been leading organizations and leadership teams in the process of change for 30 years, from the executive level to the line level.
Cathy has been working with public safety organizations (including police, fire, corrections, and policing associations) since 2002 in strategic planning and organizational development. Since 2015 she has been applying her expertise in organizational culture to help agencies build the culture INSIDE that creates public trust OUTSIDE™.
Cathy has developed a great understanding of the needs and challenges of public safety organizations within state and local government. Her work with unions adds another level of value to her service; she skillfully brings union leaders to the same table with administration to develop plans best for the whole agency. Her first book, Confucius in my Cubicle: Practical Wisdom for the Leader in All of Us (2017) reinforces her belief that everyone in an organization has both the opportunity and the responsibility to participate in creating a constructive culture.
Cathy is a versatile consultant and facilitator, and has been consistently recognized for leadership, critical thinking, communication, and results. Cathy has an MA in Human Development with an emphasis on whole systems change from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.
Amber approaches her work in organizational development with a robust and lively spirit, giving special attention to how culture, professional development, and officer wellness intersect. Amber’s practical experience as a former police officer in Duluth, MN informs her knowledge and expertise in building strong teams, meaningful connections with stakeholders and community members, and a calm, deliberate approach to strategy. She has a reputation as an attentive, considerate, and dedicated professional.
Amber started as a police officer in Duluth, MN, working on patrol before gaining a position as a mounted officer; her various assignments educated her on the numerous disciplines within law enforcement, such as background investigations, community policing, and youth engagement. Her final project in Duluth was to conduct interviews with each of the 210 staff members as part of a SWOT analysis for strategic planning.
Since entering the private sector, Amber has focused on helping public safety organizations provide their employees with a more productive and engaging environment through methods such as assessing their workplace cultures or employing process improvement approaches. She takes pride in her ability to facilitate shared experiences, and to build capacity within individuals and groups, through in-person, virtual, and hybrid methods. Her research on the connections between officer wellness and organizational culture was published in the International Society for Organizational Development and Change (ISODC) in 2019.
Amber has an MA in Human Development (with a focus on Employee Wellness) from St. Mary’s University of MN, an MA in Criminology from the University of MN – Duluth, and an AA in Law Enforcement from Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College.