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Leadership through collective intelligence

During Northern Ireland’s transition towards peace the role of the police as an actor in the conflict has been a key point of contention. As such, the reform of policing has been central to conflict transformation. Within this process, the role of dialogue about what policing had been and could be in the future has been vital. Such institutional post violence change processes have been hugely significant in illustrating both organisational resistance to change and the need for transitions to be powerfully manoeuvred through complex, political, organisational and cultural processes (Buchanan and Badham 1999; Pettigrew 2012). The radical and reforming nature of policing transition (Murphy 2013) has been both organisationally challenging (requiring significant transformational leadership, resourcing and external engagement from wider civic society) and politically unusual. Indeed, in a society emerging from violence the NI police are the only public sector organisation to have engaged structurally and culturally in understanding the point at which their core roles intersected with the ‘management’ of the conflict in NI generally. This paper presents an analysis of the role of historical dialogue in organisational change process, using the RUC / PSNI case. It proposes that historical dialogue is not just an external, societal process but also an internal organisational process and as such, has implications for managing institutional change in societies emerging from conflict. In doing so, it builds theoretical links between literature on conflict transformation and that on organisational memory and empirically explores messaging internal to the RUC before and during the four main periods of organisational change (Murphy 2013), with dialogue aimed at an external audience. It offers an analysis of how historical dialogue itself impacts on and is impacted by the organisational realities of change itself.