Going Beyond the Spec

Seth Godin recently published a blog entitled “Better than it needs to be.” Six simple paragraphs, six paragraphs that punched us in the gut because we have been guilty of this ourselves. The motivating thing is, though, that it truly is the simple things that gets the biggest return.

Seth wrote in the blog of minimum standards – every agency, department, section, and market has them. The same holds true for law enforcement. In most cases these minimum standards are established by the individual agency or by a state governing board. Either way, there is a minimum standard that must be met. And truth be told, we are often satisfied, sometimes ecstatic, when the minimum standard is met.

We are all for standards. There have to be minimum acceptable levels in every organization and every part of an organization. But these minimums cannot be the goal of the members, the leaders, or the organization. They certainly cannot be the mission of agency trainers.

Why should we go beyond the spec then? What’s in it for us, for the organization, for our profession? In the business world, Godin believes that the “extra” is what changes minds, spreads the word, and earns trust and loyalty. In law enforcement, the extra is even more valuable. The extra certainly can gain increased community trust, but it can also lead to decreased crime and enhanced officer safety. It’s a “win” all the way around it.

Think of it in terms of firearms qualification courses (aka firearms “training”). Nearly every qualification course measures the ability of the shooter to hit a target that is aimed for. But that’s not enough. The decision-making process behind should I shoot is the most important part. Yet very little of our firearms training focuses on this critical part.

First aid training is another example. This training block, though, is dreaded and blown off by most of those required to attend (our hands are ashamedly raised). The training always takes place in a sterile environment that requires no consideration of tactical components. Once again, possessing the knowledge of how to apply a tourniquet is important. The real world, though, requires that this be done while the person is thrashing about and after the threat has been neutralized. That’s the extra.

Our communities deserve the best. Our folks deserve the best. Our trainers, our leaders, and our organizations should expect the best. Doing the extra is what makes us true professionals. As Seth Godin penned, “Because if you want to grow, nothing is actually extra. It’s simply an investment.” Invest in yourselves – do the extra.



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