Futurist Addresses APPA Annual Institute. (Probation and Parole Forum)

Article excerpt

Delegates to the American Probation and Parole Association's 27th Annual Training Institute, held in Denver this past August, were treated to an insightful and intellectually challenging session led by futurist Ed Barlow. Barlow is president of Creating the Future Inc., which assists businesses and governments with strategic planning, and is a recognized expert in issues affecting work force development, transportation, travel and tourism. Business and government leaders regularly seek Barlow's advice and counsel. He has held executive positions in health care, business, higher education and management consulting. Barlow's presentation focused on aligning parole and probation with a continuum of change, and covered a wide spectrum of issues and ideas.

Strategic Imperatives

Initially, Barlow discussed the importance of studying major trends and the implications for probation and parole, noting that there are five strategic imperatives that leaders in community corrections should consider:

* The need to develop a future view or perspective;

* Alignment of programs and services;

* The need for a clear purpose and vision/mission statement;

* The importance of organizational capacity and how to increase that capacity in the face of new and emerging demands; and

* The need to develop the agency's human capital through enhanced recruitment, training and development, and retention strategies.

Barlow asked the question: "What business is probation really in?" He then suggested the answer might be the creation and support of:

* People's lifestyle choices (from anti-social to pro-social);

* Constituents' interests (victims, family members, stakeholders); and

* Community value (probation perceived as adding value to the community).

Knowledge Management

Barlow then addressed information and knowledge management in organizations. He told delegates that by 2012, human knowledge will double every subsequent year. He estimated that 20 percent of what is necessary to know to do one's job will be obsolete in a year. Barlow also stated that 60 percent of what is required to be successful in one's work lies outside an individual's current field. The challenge is to locate or create useful knowledge and communicate it throughout the organization. We will, Barlow said, need to develop an organizational instinct that encourages the following:

* Readily available information that identifies disruptive conditions so remedial action can be taken;

* Development of an organizational culture that both encourages and empowers stakeholders to be accountable for resolving problems; and

* Development and constant use of intelligence that is both meaningful and understandable to the whole organization.

Barlow then briefly discussed issues related to change management and the levels of change -- gradual, continuous and discontinuous -- depending on the level of change an organization needs to align its strategies and plans with that change environment. He suggested that for gradual change, the response is more like playing the game and following routine, but in discontinuous change, the response would be one of change and the use of breakthrough techniques.

In the 21st century, Barlow's view was an optimistic response to the challenges and opportunities presented by changes in or brought about by the economy (fortunately, he forecasts a recovery by the end of 2003); globalization efforts; advances in technology; diversity of the population; organizational dynamics and culture; development of human capital; and political changes.

Public Opinion

After discussing issues and changes in the population, Barlow turned his attention to the continuing growth in prison and probation populations. He contrasted this growth with the latest research findings on the public's view of criminal justice and noted the following:

* Fifty-four percent of adults say the nation's approach to crime is on the wrong track; 35 percent say it is on the right track. …