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Back to Archives | Back to March 2010 Contents 

A Guide for Optimizing Organizational Efficiencies: Efficiency-Led Management

Gary Schobel, Captain, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Largo, Florida

aw enforcement agencies around the United States have been experiencing reduced operational funding as a result of the country’s current financial crisis while demands for service have remained constant or, in some cases, increased. Many state and local governments are experiencing reduced tax revenues and are under pressure from constituents to reduce expenses or even face tax-reduction laws that prohibit increased taxation, thus compounding the problem of a weak revenue stream. As a result, many government agencies are struggling to maintain core services.

In today’s environment, the Efficiency-Led Management (ELM) system provides a guide for exploring current operational functions and serves as a foundation for developing new ideas leading to efficient operations. The model applies to any size organization, identifying those functions and activities duplicating services. ELM can guide law enforcement leaders to bridge the gap between financial shortfalls and continued excellent service to the community.

The ELM system helps law enforcement leaders—as well as other public officials—to think about operations differently. In order to adjust and adapt quickly leaders must fully understand how organizational processes function. Using the ELM system, law enforcement leaders will view the organization and services provided systemically and crossfunctionally to integrate staff, organizational structure, process functions, and strategic initiatives. The ELM system is a concept for managing services and operations as a business process model. Process improvement is a vital component to any law enforcement organization’s planning and operational needs.

ELM has three phases: audit, strategy development and implementation, and assessment.

Audit Phase

Auditing the agency is the best way to understand what process functions the units, sections, divisions, bureaus, and support components provide and how they interact throughout the agency. The audit phase should include the following:1

  1. Determining the scope of the audit

  2. Identifying the audit methodology to be used

  3. Mapping the audit process

  4. Conducting the audit

Audit Scope

The audit scope determines if it will focus on one process function or component within the organization, or if it will be a systemic audit examining multiple components and process functions within the organization. When planning the scope of the audit, determine if dedicated resources to the global approach are available from the onset, or if it would be better to look at each component over an extended period of time.

The audit scope determines the number of people needed to conduct the study. In smaller agencies, the team may consist of only one person; larger agencies could require numerous teams that need coordination. Systemic audits require a leader who can facilitate communication between all levels of the organization. The audit leader needs to be well respected and a strategic thinker with excellent interpersonal communication skills. The auditor must ensure from the very beginning that the audit is transparent and open, since there will most likely be territorial concerns by participating managers and commanders.

The best approach to conducting an audit is to include key staff from the onset and determine if the systems are working for the organization or if staff members are working to support the systems. Identifying the systems that interact within the organization is important in determining the audit process. Once organizational systems are identified, determine if they are communicating and interacting with each other for optimal operational efficiency.

The audit should determine what functions or services are repetitive or redundant. It can identify what processes can be enhanced, modified, or eliminated to achieve more efficient and effective results. The audit should include a cost/benefit analysis as a part of the scope to help determine the depth of the study.

Even micro-audits of small units can provide a better picture of operational processes within the organization if a full study is not feasible. Review any previous information or staff studies that may be available as this will help focus the scope of the audit. Identifying those employees who will need to be interviewed can help define the scope and number of members needed for the audit.

Conducting a systemic audit in a large organization can be time consuming and will require substantial communication, time and effort, and intra-organizational reflection. Smaller organizations may accomplish the assessment in only a few days, require limited staff (possibly just the chief), and can provide a new perspective on the agency’s operational needs and efficiencies.

Audit Methodology

The audit process can be conducted by using any number of analytical methods. The most prominent methods are qualitative and quantitative analyses, historical analysis, and cross-functional analysis, as well as by SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Each analytical methodology can provide a different insight into the organization’s workings. A combined “hybrid” approach of the methods will probably provide the best overview of the organization’s processes and provide insight into organizational efficiencies.

The variations and types of analyses with each analytical method are numerous; therefore, only a brief description and supportive example is offered for each.

Qualitative Analysis: Qualitative analysis is one of the two major research methodologies. Qualitative analysis is nonstatistical; it is subjective and largely exploratory, providing reasons for certain behaviors. Qualitative analysis is useful for exploring the “how and why.” An example of qualitative analysis is conducting interviews to determine “how” people are performing a particular function. Survey analysis and group discussion are excellent for answering questions about “why” certain outcomes were found, for hypothesis generation, and determining impact issues and unintended effects. The biggest challenge to this method is remaining neutral.

Quantitative Analysis: Quantitative analysis is the other major research methodology and deals with mathematical and statistical models. It is focused on analyzing measurable data. Quantitative analysis can be used for cost-benefit analysis or involve a review of lease agreements and contracts that can disclose potential savings if renegotiated. Analysis of the impact of modifying shift hours, reducing holidays, reducing shift differential pay, or having employees use flex overtime are a few offered for consideration using this analytical method.

Historical Analysis: Historical analysis provides a picture of performance over a specific period of time. It can be used with fiscal or crime data analysis and can be used to forecast models. Historical analysis can compare overtime worked based on population increases resulting in additional calls for service in a certain area. It can be used to explore causes for changes in response times to calls by shifts over time.

Cross-functional Analysis: The crossfunctional analysis can provide a holistic view of the organization or system. It requires defining what functions and processes are in play, how and why the function or process is being performed, and who is performing the function or process. As an example, cross-functional analysis can be used for electronic information and communication systems. It can also be used to change managerial focus by providing planning information. Cross-functional analysis can also provide leaders with a focus to enhance performance.

SWOT Analysis: The information gained from conducting a SWOT analysis may aid in deciding strategic options for service to the community or the organization. A SWOT analysis will identify both external and internal functions that contribute to the success or failure of obtaining an objective. One tangible benefit is that it will provide a global picture of the most important aspects that are affecting or will affect the organization. It will identify organizational strengths and weaknesses, and will help develop strategies to improve organizational efficiency. For example, conducting a citizen's survey as part of the audit may reveal certain opportunities the organization can capitalize on through a process change that will positively affect community relations.

Mapping the Audit Process

Mapping outlines a schedule of events or a timeline of activities that will need to be performed during the audit. The mapping process provides components with an overview. A timeline offers those involved an idea of when their area of responsibility will be reviewed and the amount of involvement members can expect. It also provides leadership with a completion time frame.

The audit team leader should meet periodically with senior leadership to discuss progress and any concerns that develop. Simplify the process where possible, publish the scope of the process, and ensure the audit process will be flexible enough to adjust to the work demands of those impacted.

Conducting the Audit

Assimilating and analyzing the information from the audit can be rewarding. The audit will better define functions and processes that are performed by personnel and electronic systems and identify how efficient support mechanisms are to the organization. A function or process could be an activity performed in one area as stand alone or in many areas cross-functionally. Functions may consist of a series or a combination of subfunctions performed in one or a multiple areas of the organization.

The audit will also map the communication and information flow through the organization; identify any efficiency impediments related to organizational structure; and determine if rules, policies, or regulations are having an adverse impact on efficiencies. The audit should determine if multiple people are performing the same function or a process, whether the results from the process performance are reviewed or acted upon, and whether the process is essential to operations.

Before and during the audit phase, senior leadership should communicate the need for thinking differently about the way business is done. During the audit, leaders need to communicate and emphasize the need for an organizational evaluation and the potential benefits it will ultimately provide to the agency and the community. Emphasis should be placed on identifying areas that can be improved, without casting blame for the way it has been done to date. The first time anyone is tagged for a deficiency and chastised, other component leaders will be more guarded in their participation.

Good communication will help determine what functions or processes are supportive or complementary. Open lines of communication are critical to establish. Open dialogue will assist in deciding if like functions or processes can be combined, and sets the stage for strategy implementation. Those involved in obtaining the source information during the audit will and must question everything— and verify and validate the information. Do not rely on hearsay or poor source information.

Assessing any possible savings is critical: sharing communal equipment such as projectors; establishing car pools; and sharing or contracting for records management, fleet maintenance with another government entity, or perhaps joint communications may make for improved economic efficiencies. Purchasing in bulk for the agency or jurisdiction as a whole—instead of having individual components make purchases—may provide savings. Consolidating services, both external and internal, needs to be explored. This can be a sensitive area, but failing to examine savings potential or improved efficiencies cannot be overlooked in a thorough audit.

The audit should successfully identify source factors restraining efficiency such as internal policy and procedures. There may be external factors such as contractual issues with service providers that are restrictive. Agreements may need to be renegotiated, and lease agreements and purchasing policy and procedures may need review. Vendor pricing is usually negotiable.

Examine the organizational structure since it may impede efficiency. The organization may have either too much or too little structure or command staff to operate effectively. Communication and political infighting can stand in the way of best service and cost. Statutory considerations and financial rules and regulations may affect best practice but are required for line-item control.

Some employees may attempt to hide information and disrupt the audit. To minimize this problem, the chief executive officer needs to clearly state that cooperation is expected at all levels and then support those conducting the organizational evaluation to get necessary information.

Strategy Development Phase

Once the audit is completed, defining the change strategy and recommendation phase begins. The primary guiding focus for the strategy should be optimizing agency efficiency. The audit should have identified changes that need to be made to improve efficiencies and identified what functions or processes can be consolidated.

Knowing how functions and processes align following any change strategy is important. If the strategy is flawed, then implementation and any results could be counterproductive to the process as well as morale.

The audit should have revealed whether consolidation is warranted. Consolidation of similar agency and support functions can streamline operations. Combining units into one venue and reducing the command structure can save on financial expenditures and improve team focus.

During this phase, build support for any upcoming changes by reviewing the audit with the organizational members and forming implementation teams, if warranted. Ownership and inclusion will go a long way to reducing resistance to any change strategy.

Defining the strategy and the feasibility of success should include the following:

  • Is the change the right thing to do?

  • Is it ethical?

  • Is the change achievable and practicable?

  • What are the financial considerations and constraints?

  • Can the strategy be followed to completion?

  • What is the impact on the organization and employees?

  • Will the change be accepted?

  • What is the impact on the service provided?

  • Is the change in keeping with the overall objectives or the vision of the organization?

  • If the department is accredited, is there any impact on standards compliance?

  • What are the labor union considerations, if any?

Strategy for Implementation

After the strategy-forming sessions, the implementation step begins. At the start of this step, it is important to continue to press for buy-in from the stakeholders. Restate the need and the benefit for the changes. This may be both an internal and an external process. The strategy may point to a consolidation of external organizational services. If another governmental agency can offer the same or better services to a community at a lower cost, that agency needs to become part of the development as well as the implementation strategy.

If external change is a part of the strategy, clearly communicate why the change is warranted. People are more receptive to change if they don’t fear it. Again, transparency must be maintained through this step. People like being a part of the plan and the change process, so include them as much as possible. Make sure everyone knows and understands why the change is warranted and make it meaningful to them. Present the positives for those most impacted by the change and communicate it—repeatedly.

Test and evaluate the change process to ensure it will achieve the desired results on a small group before pushing ahead with a global implementation strategy. Parallel runs on any new system may be warranted. Remember to be flexible and adjust accordingly. If changes are warranted in the strategy, make them, explain why they are needed, and continue.

Communication is critical in all aspects of any change but more so during the implementation phase. Insights from those affected early on in the change process can allow for the process to be modified to ease any complications that may arise. Stick to the timetable so everyone understands what service adjustments may be warranted and when they will be affected by any changes.

Assessment Phase

Once the functional change strategy has been fully implemented, the assessment phase begins. In this phase, identify what information or measures need to be tracked for assessment. Develop procedures on information assimilation and analysis collection and ensure those involved understand the need for good data collection.

Validate information and determine if further assessment is warranted. Establish benchmarks and source information. Change assessment should determine the degree of efficiency enhancement. If the process change did not achieve the desired results, determine the cause and adjust accordingly.

ELM Is an Ongoing Process

The Efficiency-Led Management process must be continually performed and evaluated. ELM is not a one-step plan. Leaders should always be looking for ways to tweak the system for improved performance. Seeking a better way to do business is important to the continued success and growth of any organization. ELM is a systemic approach to identifying areas that can be enhanced to work more efficiently and economically. Efficient and effective leaders achieve best practices through an open operational environment that allows for continual process improvement. This is the heart of Efficiency-Led Management. ■

(The author wishes to thank the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Strategic Planning Division staff for their contribution to this article.)


1U.S. Navy, Handbook for Basic Process Improvement, (1996),

Please cite as:

Gary Schobel, "A Guide for Optimizing Organizational Efficiencies: Efficiency-Led Management," The Police Chief 77 (March 2010): 64–66, (insert access date).



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVII, no. 3, March 2010. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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