By Lt. Rob Rock

During the Peak Academy’s Black Belt training, several admonitions and suggestions were given concerning how to begin.  I thought two were particularly cogent.

The first was, “Use what we teach you to help others rather than manipulate people into doing things differently.”  I really appreciated the instructors’ commitments to ethical behavior and encouraging prospective black belts to hold themselves to high standards.  The second was, “Don’t overwhelm others with your new-found knowledge.”  This is extremely important because many of us were learning things that we wanted to go back to our assignments with and start innovating immediately.  I know how annoying someone can be when they return from an in-depth training and try to change everything and everyone around them their first day back.  Nobody likes being harangued like that!

Taking all this in mind, I decided that I would start fixing me before I tried to help others fix themselves.  It is always better to lead by example, especially if you want to demonstrate that the concepts and ideas you have learned really work.  If others see it working for you, they will be more open to trying it for themselves.  After 6S’ing my
workspace, developing a standard of work for my operations, creating a visual time
management chart, and spending time working within the system, I was excited to see how efficient I had become.  I was walking passed a whiteboard hanging outside my office when an idea struck me.  I wrote on the whiteboard, “Get some pull and flow!”

[Pull refers to having what you need, when you need it, where you need it, resulting in flow- or working in your process without getting stuck in bottlenecks.]

I left it there for several days and started hearing the detectives in the office asking each other about it.  One of my sergeants told me that he was getting inquiries about what the saying meant.

One afternoon, a detective came to my office and said, “OK, a bunch of us have been talking and I have to know, what is pull and flow?”  After explaining the principles of pull and flow, he told me that the message on the whiteboard had been the topic of discussion for a week on each shift with everyone trying to figure it out.  Wow!  I had no idea a simple phrase could spark a discussion that would eventually turn my unit into an innovative incubator.  The next day I changed the whiteboard by including two columns for employees to post sticky-notes.  The first column’s title was, “This makes my job harder to do,” and the second was titled, “I wish I had _______ to do my job.”  I placed a bunch of yellow sticky-notes and a pen next to the board.

staffWithin a day, the board was filling up with ideas, complaints, jokes, and hopes.  The number of great ideas amazed me and some were absolutely brilliant.  I was excited to get busy innovating and leading the charge toward efficiency and effectiveness.  I started posting the results of innovative efforts on a sheet of paper underneath the whiteboard so everyone could see what was being accomplished.  Many of the sticky-notes provided opportunities to work with my team to find solutions and teach process improvement.  Ultimately, a simple phrase on a whiteboard turned innovation into common workplace phenomenon that is leading to real and positive solutions to process problems.

robLieutenant Robert Rock has been with the Denver Police Department since 1990 and began his early career as a cadet for DPD.  He currently oversees the Traffic Investigations Unit and has spent ½ of his career as an accident investigator, specializing in accident reconstruction.  Rob is also a forensics expert.

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