Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point explains how ideas and changes in organizations can spread like epidemics; how bringing the right elements together to reach the point of critical mass makes its effect become unstoppable. We’ve seen tipping points recently:
- The #MeToo movement to end sexual harassment
- The students from Parkland School in Florida who created a unified outrage in the gun violence debate strong enough to cause ripples at the Capitol.
These are examples of individuals who banded together to become tipping points for change. But organizations can also employ tipping point leadership.
The Harvard Business Review summarized what needs to be done in the article Tipping Point Leadership. The article outlines how Bill Bratton transformed the New York City Police Department.
The odds were against him. The New York Police Department, with a $2 billion budget and a workforce of 35,000 police officers, was notoriously difficult to manage. Turf wars over jurisdiction and funding were rife. Officers were underpaid relative to their counterparts in neighboring communities, and promotion seemed to bear little relationship to performance. Crime had gotten so far out of control that the press referred to the Big Apple as the Rotten Apple. Indeed, many social scientists had concluded, after three decades of increases, that New York City crime was impervious to police intervention. The best the police could do was react to crimes once they were committed.
Yet in less than two years, and without an increase in his budget, Bill Bratton turned New York into the safest large city in the nation. Between 1994 and 1996, felony crime fell 39%; murders, 50%; and theft, 35%. Gallup polls reported that public confidence in the NYPD jumped from 37% to 73%, even as internal surveys showed job satisfaction in the police department reaching an all-time high. Not surprisingly, Bratton’s popularity soared, and in 1996, he was featured on the cover of Time.
Perhaps most impressive, the changes have outlasted their instigator, implying a fundamental shift in the department’s organizational culture and strategy.
Hurtles that block high performance in organizations:
- Wedded to the status quo
- Limited resources
- Demotivated staff
- Opposition from powerful vested interests
Against all odds, Bratton changed the NYPD and proved that Tipping Point Leadership can create a movement that can “only be unleashed by agents who make unforgettable and unarguable calls for change, who concentrate their resources on what really matters, who mobilize the commitment of the organization’s key players and who succeed in silencing the most vocal naysayers.”
Tipping Point Leadership is a riveting article. It outlines a turnaround formula for managers who have limited time and resources. I hope you read it and are as inspired as I was.
The road is easier together,