the summary idea
How can you overcome the obstacles faced by any organization seeking change: reliance on the status quo, limited resources, disengaged employees, and resistance from powerful stakeholders?
Learn from Police Chief Bill Bratton, who has done the trick five times. Most dramatically, he made America's most dangerous city - New York - the safest. used bratontipping point leadershipMake irrefutable calls for change, focus resources on what really matters, mobilize commitment from key stakeholders, and silence naysayers.
Not every leader has Bratton's personality, but most have his potential - if they follow his formula for success.
The idea in practice
Four steps to the tipping point
1. Break the cognitive roadblock.To make a compelling case for change, don't just point to the numbers and demand better numbers. Your abstract message won't stick. Instead, make key managersexperienceyour organization's problems.Example:
New Yorkers once considered subways to be the most dangerous places in their city. But New York traffic cops allayed the public's fears - because no one had ever ridden the subway. To break his complacency, Bratton asked all NYTP officers - including himself - to commute on the subway. When they saw the congested turnstiles, youth gangs and neglected people, they recognized the need for change - and took responsibility for it.
2. Get around the resource obstacle.Instead of lowering your ambitions (dooming your business to mediocrity) or scrambling for more resources (taking attention away from underlying problems), focus oncurrentlyresources in territoriesthe majorityneeds change.Example:
Since most subway crime took place in just a few stations, Bratton concentrated his forces there - rather than having a police officer on every subway line, entry and exit.
3. Ignore the motivational roadblock.To turn a mere strategy into motion, people must recognize what needs to be done and yearn to do it themselves. But don't try to overhaul your entire organization; this is complicated and expensive. Instead, motivatemain influencers– convince people with diverse connections. Like bowling kingpins hit directly, they knock over all the other pins. Most organizations have several key influencers who share common issues and concerns, making them easy to identify and motivate.Example:
Bratton singled out the NYPD's key influencers—district commanders—during semi-weekly crime strategy review meetings, in which peers and superiors quizzed commanders on precinct performance. Results? A culture of performance, accountability, and learning that senior leaders emulate.
Also, make the challenges achievable. Bratton urged officials to make New York's streets safe "block by block, district by district, and district by district".
4. Remove the political hurdle.Even when organizations reach tipping points, powerful interest groups resist change. Identify and silence key naysayers early on by adding a respected senior member to your core team.Example:
At the NYPD, Bratton named 20-year veteran police officer John Timoney as his number two. Timoney knew the major players and how they played the political game. Early on, he identified likely saboteurs and resistance fighters among the major powers - leading to a changing of the guard.
Also, silence the opposition with undeniable facts. When Bratton proved that his proposed crime reporting system took less than 18 minutes a day, time-sensitive precinct commanders adopted it.
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In February 1994, William Bratton was appointed New York City Police Commissioner. The odds were against him. The New York City Police Department, with a budget of $2 billion and a staff of 35,000 officers, was notoriously difficult to manage. Territorial battles over jurisdiction and funding were widespread. Officers were poorly paid compared to their peers in neighboring communities, and promotion seemed to have little to do with merit. Crime was so out of control that the press dubbed the Big Apple the Rotten Apple. Indeed, after three decades of growth, many social scientists concluded that crime in New York City was impervious to police intervention. The best the police could do was respond to crimes as soon as they were committed.
But in less than two years, and without increasing his budget, Bill Bratton has made New York the safest city in the country. Between 1994 and 1996, crime dropped by 39%; homicides, 50%; and theft 35%. Gallup polls showed that public trust in the NYPD increased from 37% to 73%, although internal polls showed that job satisfaction in the police department reached an all-time high. Not surprisingly, Bratton's popularity soared and he appeared on the 1996 cover.Tempo.Perhaps most impressive, the changes outlasted their creator, implying a radical shift in the department's organizational culture and strategy. Crime rates continued to fall: statistics released in December 2002 showed that New York's overall crime rate is the lowest of the 25 largest cities in the United States.
The NYPD turnaround would be impressive enough for any police chief. For Bratton, however, it's just the latest of no less than five successful comebacks in a 20-year police career. Hoping Bratton could repeat his successes in New York and Boston, Los Angeles recruited him to take on the challenge of transforming the LAPD. (See Bratton's exhibit in Action for a summary of his accomplishments.)
start of the exhibition
braton in action The NYPD wasn't Bill Bratton's first time. The table describes your main challenges and achievements during your 20 years as a political reformer.end of exposition
So what motivates Bill Bratton? As management researchers, we have long been fascinated with what triggers superior performance or what suddenly brings a struggling organization back to life. To find the common elements behind these leaps in performance, we built a database of over 125 commercial and non-commercial organizations. Bratton first came to our attention in the early 1990s when we heard about his stint with the New York Transit Police. Bratton was special to us because he succeeded in all of his twists and turns in record time, despite overcoming all four obstacles that managers consistently say are high performers: an organization constrained by the status quo, limited resources, a unmotivated and opposed by powerful vested interests. If Bratton could thrive against all odds, we think other leaders could learn a lot from him.
Over the years, through our professional and personal networks and the extensive public information available about the police industry, we have systematically compared the strategic, managerial and performance records of Bratton's turnarounds. We then interviewed the key players, including Bratton himself, as well as many others who followed the events for professional - or sometimes personal - reasons.
Our research has led us to the conclusion that all of Bratton's comebacks are textbook examples of what we call Kipping Point Leadership. The tipping point theory, which has its roots in epidemiology, is well known; it depends on the insight that in any organization, once the beliefs and energies of a critical mass of people are activated, the conversion to a new idea spreads like an epidemic and quickly brings about fundamental change. The theory suggests that such a movement can only be triggered by agents who make undeniable and unforgettable calls for change, who focus their resources on what really matters, who mobilize the commitment of key organizational figures, and who succeed in silencing the most vehement opponents. 🇧🇷 Bratton has done all of those things in all of his twists and turns.
In any organization, once the beliefs and energies of a critical mass of people are activated, conversion to a new idea will spread like an epidemic.
Most managers only dream of achieving the kind of leap in performance that Bratton provided. It took even Jack Welch about ten years and $10 million in restructuring and training to make GE the powerhouse it is today. Few CEOs have the time and money that Welch did, and most—even those seeking relatively smooth change—soon become intimidated by the scale of the obstacles they face. But we found that the dream can really come true. What makes Bratton's comebacks particularly moving for us is that his approach to overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way of peak performance has been remarkably consistent. His achievements are therefore not just a matter of personality but also of method, suggesting that they are reproducible. Tipping point leadership can be learned.
In the pages that follow, we present the approach that allowed Bratton to overcome inertial forces and reach the tipping point. We first show how Bratton overcame the cognitive obstacles that keep companies from seeing the need for radical change. We then describe how he successfully circumvented, and even used to his advantage, the public sector's endemic resource constraints. In the third section, we explain how Bratton overcame the motivational obstacles that discouraged and demoralized even the most dedicated police officers. Finally, we detail how Bratton breaks down the potentially lethal resistance of vocal and powerful opponents. (For a graphic summary of the ideas expressed in this article, see the Leadership at a Glance exhibit.)
start of the exhibition
Tipping Point Leadership Overview Leaders like Bill Bratton use a four-step process to create fast, dramatic, lasting change with limited resources. The cognitive and resource barriers shown here represent the barriers that organizations face in realigning and formulating strategy. Motivational and political obstacles prevent rapid implementation of a strategy. Overcoming all four hurdles leads to rapid strategy realignment and implementation. Clearly, overcoming these hurdles is an ongoing process, as today's innovation soon becomes tomorrow's mainstream norm.end of exposition
Break the cognitive roadblock
With many twists and turns, the hardest struggle is simply getting people to agree on the causes of current problems and the need for change. Most CEOs try to make the case for change simply by pointing to the numbers and urging the company to achieve better numbers. But messages sent through numbers rarely remain. To senior management—the same people the CEO needs to win over—the case for change seems abstract and far-fetched. Those whose units are doing well feel that the criticism is not directed at them, that the problem lies with senior management. Managers of underperforming units feel disenfranchised—and people concerned about job security are looking at the job market rather than trying to solve the company's problems.
For all these reasons, pioneers like Bratton don't rely on numbers to overcome the organization's cognitive barriers. Instead, they confront their top managers with operational issues so managers can't escape reality. Poor performance becomes something they witness rather than hear about. Communicating in this way means that the message – performance is poor and needs to be fixed – gets through to people, which is essential for them not only to be convinced that a turnaround is needed, but that they can achieve it.
When Bratton first went to New York to head the Transit Police in April 1990, he found that none of the officers in charge rode the subway. They commuted to work and drove in cars provided by the city. Comfortably removed from the facts of underground life—and reassured by statistics showing that only 3 percent of the city's biggest crimes were committed on the subway—senior managers had little sensitivity to commuters' pervasive concerns about safety. To break the staff's complacency, Bratton demanded that all transit officers - starting with him - take the subway to work, meetings and nights. It was the first opportunity for many staff officers in years to share the experience of the common man on the subway and see the situation their subordinates faced: congested turnstiles, aggressive beggars, gangs of youths jumping over turnstiles and people crowding the platforms, drunks and homeless people sprawled out on benches. It was clear that even though there were few serious crimes going on in the subway, the whole place reeked of fear and disorder. With this ugly reality before them, Transit Force senior executives could no longer deny the need to change their policing methods.
Bratton uses a similar approach to raise awareness of his issues among his superiors. For example, when he was in charge of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) police department, which operates the Boston area subway and buses, the Transit Authority board decided to buy small vehicles that would be cheaper to buy. and operate. Rather than fight the decision, Bratton invited the MBTA executive director on a tour of the district. He went to pick him up in a small car, just like the ones that were supposed to be ordered. He pushed the seats forward so the general manager could feel what little legroom a seven-foot-tall cop would have, then heaved it over every pothole he could find. Bratton also packed his belt, handcuffs, and gun for the trip so the general manager could see how little room there was for the officers' tools. After only two hours the manager wanted to leave. He said he didn't know how Bratton could stand to be alone in such a cramped car for so long - let alone with a criminal in the backseat. Bratton got the bigger cars he wanted.
Bratton extends first-hand experience by insisting that his officers know the communities they protect. Feedback is often insightful. In the late 1970s, Boston Police Precinct 4, which included Symphony Hall, the Christian Science Mother Church, and other cultural institutions, experienced an increase in crime. The public became increasingly intimidated; residents sold out, sending the community into a downward spiral. However, the Boston Police Department's performance statistics did not reflect this reality. The District 4 Police Department, it seems, has done an excellent job of quickly responding to 911 calls and prosecuting perpetrators of serious crimes. To resolve this paradox, Bratton had the unit organize community meetings in classrooms and civic centers so that citizens could voice their concerns to sergeants and district detectives. As obvious as the logic of this practice seems, it was the first time in the history of the Boston Police Department that anyone had attempted such an initiative - mainly because the practice until then advocated distancing between the police and the community to reduce the likelihood of reducing the police corruption. 🇧🇷
The limits of this practice soon became apparent. The meetings started with a show and a report from the employees: this is what we are working on and why. But when citizens were later invited to discuss the issues that affect them, a major gap in perception emerged. While police officers prided themselves on solving serious crimes such as theft and murder, few citizens felt threatened by these crimes. They were more bothered by constant minor annoyances: prostitutes, homeless people, broken-down cars abandoned in the streets, drunks in the gutters, dirt on the sidewalks. The town assemblies quickly resulted in a complete overhaul of District 4's policing priorities. Since then, Bratton has used these community assemblies on every occasion.
Bratton's internal communications strategy also plays an important role in overcoming cognitive barriers. Traditionally, internal police communication is largely based on memos, personal communications and other documents. Bratton knows that few officers have the time or desire to do more than throw those documents in the trash. Instead, officials rely on rumors and media stories for information about what headquarters is doing. As such, Bratton typically calls in outside communication experts for help. In New York, for example, he recruited John Miller, an investigative television reporter known for his bold and innovative style, as his communications czar. Miller arranged for Bratton to communicate via video messages played over the calls, resulting in Bratton - and his opinions - getting closer to the people he needed to win over. At the same time, Miller's journalistic skills made it easy for the NYPD to ensure that press interviews and reports reflected the strong insider messages that Bratton was conveying.
Bypass the resource barrier
Once people in an organization accept the need for change and more or less agree on what needs to be done, leaders are often faced with the stark reality of limited resources. Do they have the money for the necessary changes? Most reform-minded CEOs do one of two things at this point. They lower their ambitions, dooming the company to mediocrity at best and demoralizing the workforce again, or they compete for more resources from their bankers and shareholders, a process that can take time and distract from the underlying issues.
This pitfall is completely avoidable. Leaders like Bratton know how to hit organizational pain points without additional resources. You can accomplish a lot with the resources at your disposal. They focus their resources on the areas that most need to change and will bring the greatest benefit. Indeed, this idea is at the heart of Bratton's famous (and once hotly debated) zero-tolerance policing philosophy.
After winning people over to the idea of change, Bratton must convince them to take a hard look at exactly what is wrong with their operating practices. At this point, he turns to numbers, which he can use to force big changes. Take the case of the New York City Drug Enforcement Police. Bratton's predecessors had treated this as secondary, in part because they assumed that answering emergency calls was the top priority. As a result, less than 5% of NYPD staff have been assigned to combat drug-related crimes.
In a first meeting with NYPD chiefs, Bratton's deputy commissioner of crime strategy Jack Maple asked the people at the table their estimate of the percentage of crimes attributable to drug use. Most said 50%; another 70%; the lowest estimate was 30%. On that basis, an anti-drug unit comprising less than 5% of the police force was understaffed, Maple pointed out. It was also found that drug enforcement officers worked primarily Monday through Friday, although drugs were sold in large quantities on weekends and drug-related offenses occurred repeatedly. Why the weekly schedule? Because it's always been done that way; it was an indisputable course of action. With these facts presented, Bratton's request for a major redeployment of personnel and resources within the NYPD was quickly accepted.
Leaders like Bratton don't need additional resources to reach the tipping point. They focus resources where the need and most likely benefit are greatest.
Careful examination of the facts can also reveal where major policy changes can reduce the need for resources, as Bratton demonstrated during his tenure as chief of New York City's Traffic Police. His predecessors had campaigned heavily for money to increase the number of subway police, arguing that the only way to deter thieves was for police to man all subway lines and all 700 exits and entrances to the patrol system. In contrast, Bratton believed that subway crime could not be solved by throwing more resources at the problem, but by applying those resources more purposefully. To prove it, he had his team analyze where clandestine crimes were being committed. They found that the vast majority appeared only at a few stations and on a few lines, suggesting that a targeted strategy would work well. At the same time, he shifted more forces from uniforms to civilian clothing at focal points. Criminals soon realized that a lack of uniforms did not necessarily mean a lack of police.
The allocation of officers was not the only issue. Bratton's analysis found that an inordinate amount of police time was wasted processing arrests. It took an officer up to 16 hours per arrest to arrest the suspect and file documentation related to the incident. Furthermore, the police hated bureaucratic procedure so much that they avoided making arrests in minor cases. Bratton realized that he could dramatically increase his available police resources—not to mention officer motivation—if he could somehow improvise this problem. His solution was to park "bust buses"-old buses converted into detention centers-at the corner of the subway stations attacked. Processing time has been reduced from 16 hours to just one. Innovations like these allowed Bratton to drastically reduce crime on the subway—even without increasing the number of officers on duty at any one time. (The exhibit, The Strategy Canvas of Transit: How Bratton Refocused Resources, shows how Bratton radically refocused traffic policing resources.)
The Strategic Transit Canvas: How Bratton Rebalanced Its Resources
When comparing strategies across companies, we like to use a tool we call the "Strategy Canvas", which highlights differences in strategies and resource allocation. The strategy screen shown here compares the NYPD's strategy and resource allocation before and after Bill Bratton was named chief. The vertical axis shows the relative level of resource allocation. The horizontal axis shows the different elements of the strategy invested. Although there has been a drastic change in resource allocation and performance has increased dramatically, the total investment in resources has remained more or less constant. Bratton did this by de-emphasizing or virtually eliminating some traditional features of traffic policing while emphasizing others or creating new ones. For example, he managed to reduce the time officers spend processing suspects by introducing mobile processing centers called "bust buses".
start of the exhibitionend of exposition
Bratton's quest for data-driven policing solutions led to the creation of the famous Compstat crime database. The database, used to identify hot spots of intensive police intervention, captures weekly crime and arrest activity - including times, locations and associated enforcement activities - at the county, county and city levels. Compstat reporting allowed Bratton and the entire police department to easily identify established and emerging hotspots for efficient targeting and redirecting of resources.
In addition to rebalancing the resources he already controls, Bratton has proven himself adept at trading resources he doesn't need for those he does. Heads of public sector organizations are reluctant to advertise excess resources, let alone lend them to other agencies, as recognized excess resources tend to be redistributed. So, over time, some organizations are equipped with resources they don't need, even if they lack others. For example, when Bratton took over as chief of the Transit Police, his general counsel and policy adviser Dean Esserman, now chief of police for Providence, Rhode Island, discovered that the Transit Unit had more unmarked cars than it needed, but there was a lack of office space. New York's probation department, on the other hand, had too few cars but too many offices. Esserman and Bratton offered the obvious switch. It was gratefully accepted by the probation department, and the traffic cops were delighted to get the first floor of a noble building in the center of the city. The deal increased Bratton's credibility within the organization, which would later make it easier for him to make more fundamental changes, and highlighted him to his political bosses as a problem solver.
Ignore the Motivation Hurdle
Reaching an organization's tipping point requires making employees aware of the need for change and identifying how to achieve it with limited resources. But for a new strategy to become a movement, people don't just need to see what needs to be done, they need to want it. Many CEOs recognize the importance of motivating people to make changes, but they make the mistake of trying to reform incentives across the organization. This process takes a long time to implement and can be very expensive, given the wide variety of motivational needs in large organizations.
One way Bratton solves the motivation problem is to single out key influencers—people inside or outside the organization with disproportionate power because of their connections to the organization, their ability to persuade, or block access to resources. Bratton acknowledges that when it comes to bowling, these influencers act like kingpins: if you hit, all the pins will fall. Motivating key influencers frees an organization from having to motivate everyone, and yet everyone ends up being touched and transformed. And because most companies have a relatively small number of key influencers, and because these people tend to share common issues and concerns, it's relatively easy for CEOs to identify and motivate them.
Bratton solves the motivation problem by choosing the most important influencing factors. They act like kingpins in bowling: if you hit them accurately, all the pins fall.
Bratton's approach to motivating her top influencers is to put them in the spotlight. Perhaps his most significant overhaul of NYPD operating practices was the establishment of a biweekly strategy review meeting that brought together top policymakers with the city's 76 precinct commanders. Bratton identified commanders as important and influential people in the NYPD, as each directly managed 200 to 400 officers. Attendance was mandatory for all senior officials, including three-star chiefs, deputy commissioners and district heads. Bratton was there whenever possible.
At the meetings, held in the police command center auditorium, a selected district commander was summoned before a high-ranking panel (the selected officer was given only two days' notice to keep all commanders on their toes). The featured commander was questioned by both the panel and other commanders about the squadron's performance. He or she was responsible for explaining the projected maps and graphs that, based on Compstat data, showed the police station's crime patterns and when and where the police responded. The commander would have to provide a detailed explanation when police activity did not reflect spikes in crime, and he would also be asked how officers are dealing with problems at the station and why performance is improving or decreasing. The meetings allowed Bratton and his senior staff to carefully monitor and evaluate how commanders were motivating and directing their people and how they were focusing on strategic hot spots.
The meetings changed NYPD culture in many ways. By making outcomes and accountability clear to everyone, the meetings helped to instill a culture of performance. In fact, a photo of the commander about to be questioned appeared on the first page of the handout handed out to each participant in the meeting, emphasizing that the commander was responsible for the police station's results. An incompetent commander could no longer gloss over his failures by attributing his station's results to the shortcomings of neighboring stations because his neighbors were in space and could react. For the same reason, the meetings gave high achievers the opportunity to be recognized both for improving their own districts and for assisting other commanders. The meetings also allowed police leaders to share notes about their experiences; Prior to Bratton's arrival, district commanders rarely met as a group. Over time, this leadership style seeped through the ranks as district commanders tried their own versions of Bratton's meetings. With their performance in the spotlight, commanders were highly motivated to get all officers under their thumb and march to the new strategy.
Of course, the big challenges in using a motivational tool like this is ensuring that people feel that it is based on fair processes and that they can learn lessons from both good and bad outcomes. This increases the organization's collective strength and everyone's chances of winning. Bratton tackles the problem of fair process by including all the important influencing factors in the processes, formulating clear performance expectations, and explaining why these strategy meetings are essential for rapid policy implementation, for example. He addresses the issue of learning by insisting on an active role for the core team in meetings and actively facilitating. District commanders can talk about their successes or failures without feeling like they are showing off or being shown off. Successful commanders are not seen as swashbucklers, as it is clear to all that they have been asked by Bratton's core team to detail how they achieved their accomplishments. And for commanders on the receiving end, the pain of having to lecture a colleague is at least mitigated by not having to suffer the humiliation of asking. Bratton's popularity soared when he created a humorous video satirizing the barbeque thrown at precinct commanders; it showed the officers that he understood how much he was asking of them.
Bratton also uses another motivational lever: formulating the reform challenge itself. Framing the challenge is one of the most subtle and sensitive tasks of the tipping point leader; Unless people believe the results are achievable, a turnaround is unlikely to occur. At first glance, Bratton's New York goal was so ambitious it was hard to believe. Who would believe that the city could become one of the safest in the country? And who would want to invest time and energy in the pursuit of such an impossible dream?
To make the challenge manageable, Bratton framed it as a set of specific goals that employees at different levels could identify with. As he put it, the NYPD's challenge was to make the streets of New York safe "block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, and neighborhood by neighborhood." Thus formulated, the task was comprehensive and doable. For officers on the street, the challenge was to make their beats or roadblocks secure - nothing more. For commanders, the challenge was to protect their districts - nothing more. District leaders also had a specific goal within their means: to make their districts safe – nothing more. Regardless of their rank, the officers couldn't say that what was being asked of them was too hard. Nor could they claim that it was not in their hands to achieve it. In this way, the responsibility for transforming Bratton shifted to each of the thousands of officers on the force.
Overcome the political hurdle
Organizational politics is an unavoidable reality in public and corporate life, a lesson Bratton learned the hard way. In 1980, at age 34, one of the youngest lieutenants in the Boston Police Department, he proudly had a sign posted in his office that read, "Youth and skill will always trump age and treachery." mixture of office politics and his own audacity, Bratton took the plaque away. He never forgot the importance of understanding the conspiracy, intrigue, and politics involved in enforcing change. Even when an organization reaches the tipping point, powerful interest groups resist further reforms. As change becomes more likely, these negative influencers – both internal and external – will struggle with more vehemence and voice to defend their positions, and their opposition could seriously undermine or even derail the reform process.
Bratton anticipates these dangers by identifying and silencing powerful opponents early on. To that end, he always makes sure he has a respected senior member on the core team. At the NYPD, for example, Bratton named John Timoney, now Miami Police Commissioner, as his number two. Timoney was a respected and feared police officer for his service to the NYPD and the more than 60 awards he received. Twenty years in the ranks had taught him who all the key players were and how they played the political game. One of Timoney's first tasks was to brief Bratton on the likely attitude of senior officials toward Bratton's concept of zero-tolerance policing and to identify those who would silently oppose or sabotage the new initiatives. This led to a dramatic changing of the guard.
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Of course, not all opponents should count on final sanction - there may not be enough people to man the barricades. In many cases, therefore, Bratton silences opposition with indisputable examples and facts. For example, when first asked to compile detailed crime maps and information packets for strategy review meetings, most district commanders complained that the task would take too long and waste valuable police time that could be better spent on fighting crime. Anticipating this argument, Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple created a reporting system that covered the most crime-infested areas of the city. Operating the system required no more than 18 minutes a day, which he told district commanders represented less than 1% of the district's average workload. Try to reason with it.
The greatest resistance to reform often comes from outside. In both the public sector and business, an organization's change in strategy impacts other organizations – partners and competitors. These players are likely to resist change if they are comfortable with the status quo and strong enough to protest the changes. Bratton's strategy in dealing with such adversaries is to isolate them by building a broad coalition with the other independent powers in his empire. In New York, for example, one of the most serious threats to his reforms came from the city's courts, which feared that zero-tolerance policing would result in a huge backlog of petty crime cases, clogging court schedules.
To overcome the court's resistance, Bratton enlisted the support of none other than Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had considerable influence with the district attorneys, the courts, and the Rikers Island City Jail. Bratton's team demonstrated to the mayor that the justice system was capable of handling petty "quality of life" crimes, although they probably didn't like it.
The mayor decided to intervene. While acknowledging to the courts that a crackdown would result in a short-term increase in judicial work, he also made it clear that he and the NYPD believed it would lead to a reduction in the workload of the courts. Working together in this way, Bratton and the mayor were able to persuade the courts to prosecute crimes to improve the quality of life. Seeing that the mayor was siding with Bratton, the courts turned to city legislators and endorsed legislation that would exempt them from handling petty crime cases, arguing that such cases clogged the system and would incur significant costs to the city. Bratton and the mayor, who held weekly strategy meetings, added another ally to their coalition by taking their case to the press, particularly theNew York Times.Through a series of press conferences and articles, and in every interview opportunity, the issue of zero tolerance was brought to the forefront and center of public debate with a clear and simple message: if the courts did not help crack down on quality of crime, the city's crime rate would not improve. It wasn't about saving money, it was about saving the city.
Bratton's alliance with the mayor's office and the city's main media institution successfully isolated the courts. The courts could hardly be seen as public opponents of an initiative that would not only make New York a more attractive place to live but also reduce the number of cases brought before them. With the mayor speaking aggressively in the press about the need to prosecute crimes to improve the quality of life, and the city's most respected - and liberal - newspaper giving credence to the policy, the cost of fighting Bratton's strategy was staggering. Thanks to this wise policy, one of Bratton's biggest battles was won and the legislation was not enacted. The courts would deal with crimes against the quality of life. Over time, crime rates really plummeted.
Bratton's alliance with City Hall and theNew York Timesisolated courts that opposed its zero-tolerance policing for fear it would disrupt hearings.
• • •
Of course, like any leader, Bill Bratton needs to share the credit for his accomplishments. Turning an organization as large and tied to the status quo as the NYPD upside down takes a collective effort. But without him - or another leader like him - the tipping point would not have been reached. And while we recognize that not every leader has the personality to be a Bill Bratton, many have that potential when they know the formula for success. We've tried to present this formula and urge managers who want to transform their organization but have limited time and resources to write it down. By addressing the turning point obstacles described in these pages, they have the opportunity to deliver the same results to their shareholders that Bratton delivered to the people of New York.
A version of this article appeared atApril 2003problem ofHarvard Business Review.