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Is Your Agency an Integrated Strategic Management System?

By Gregory A. Warren, EdD, Captain (Retired), Delaware State Police

any law enforcement agencies from throughout the United States have long realized some degree of divergence and inefficiency between an agency’s many administrative and operational functions. The results of this incongruence in philosophies and priorities and lack of cooperation between organizational entities—from individuals, to teams, to entire divisions—can result in a wide variety of negative influences on the agency. This large-scale, agency-wide dysfunctionality can result in internal competition; political maneuvering; a lack of interdepartmental cooperation; a lack of both short-term and long-range planning; a failure to execute plans and orders; the enactment of inept policies and procedures; and many other effects, which detract from the agency’s daily administrative functions and law enforcement operations.1 So as law enforcement realizes even greater internal and external competition for limited resources, particularly during these challenging economic times, all stakeholders and citizens alike will most certainly continue to expect the same levels and quality of service to which they have become accustomed. No one will accept limited financial resources or the further growth of the typical police bureaucracy as an excuse for less than premier law enforcement services, particularly in those jurisdictions where crime and traffic conditions continue to worsen.

What Is an Integrated Strategic Management System?

The question for law enforcement then becomes: how do agencies continue to provide the same levels and standards of service with fewer tangible resources? The traditional response to this problem has often been to either identify additional sources of funding or cut services. However, these challenging economic times present proactive and innovative police agencies with an opportunity to reinvent, or at least transform, their agencies from a traditionally functioning paramilitary organization to an Integrated Strategic Management System (ISMS).2 Challenging a law enforcement agency to become a well-designed, well-structured organization—with cooperation and coordination as a major requirement for participation—coupled with great processes designed to complement, not conflict with each other, will provide the agency with the systems approach it needs to function smoothly and effectively, even with the currently existing economic conditions, while effectively meeting the demand for police services. The idea of studying organizations in the hope of finding various inefficiencies is not new. However, the concept of transforming an entire law enforcement agency into an ISMS is a new method of doing business, and because of this, it is not readily understood, much less adopted by many organizations. Law enforcement agencies wanting to accentuate their success levels and performance must find methods and processes that foster or even mandate both internal and external cooperation as an organizational philosophy, including an expectation of cooperation and sharing the organization’s vision among all administrative functions and operational strategies.

The Drive for Organizational Excellence

ISMSs take the current organizational analysis and design process beyond what almost everyone typically engages in today. Concentrating simply on the organizational structure and the more obvious functions of the organization is not enough to identify the changes needed to drive an organization toward excellence, as Jim Collins expressed in Good to Great.3 Many proactive agencies that already engage in a formalized annual strategic planning process also engage in an annual organizational analysis as part of the strategic planning effort. However, a truly comprehensive study of the organization, required as one of the first steps in designing an ISMS, should concentrate on all of the many administrative and operational areas, including the various business practices and law enforcement functions of the organization. Many organizations today still operate both strategically and tactically with a more traditional, fragmented approach, full of divergence and independence in thought as well as in action, between the various administrative and operational functions. Organizational entities working independently of each other detract from an agency attempting to identify and communicate a shared vision for the organization’s future direction. Chief Eugene Savage, soon after taking over the Fort Pierce Police Department in Florida, quickly realized major change was required for the agency to be able to perform at the levels both mandated and desired by all agency stakeholders.4 Many law enforcement executives today are realizing the value that reinventing or at least reorganizing their agencies can have on agency effectiveness—from very specific changes such as the New Jersey State Police intelligence-led policing initiative, post-9/115 to November 2011, when the Houston, Texas, Police Department received its ISO 9000:2008 certification for process improvement and quality assurance.6 The largest single example of an intentional, well-designed, and fully implemented organizational transformation with an ISMS as its mainstay is the U.S. Coast Guard, under the direction of former Commandant, Admiral Thad Allen. Under Admiral Allen’s leadership, the Coast Guard was tasked with redesigning its entire organizational structure, operational processes, and business model for increased efficiency, effectiveness, and interoperability. Many of these changes are still being implemented at this time.7 The idea of conjoining the best of both the private and the public sectors’ business practices—coupled with strong, proven, effective law enforcement methodologies—is again not a new concept; however, it certainly deserves revisiting from a completely new perspective: that of transforming an organization into an ISMS. Every law enforcement professional from line-level police officer to chief executive should consider one of their primary responsibilities to be that of regularly and systematically studying the entire organization both internally and externally, including all administrative and operational processes for areas where the many functions of the agency could be streamlined, redesigned, or transformed. From identifying external risks to internally engaging in more fortuitous human resource management practices to reallocating overtime funds for greater impact, every area where any level of inefficiency or ineffectiveness exists within the organization should be quickly identified and addressed by the agency.

Committing to Change

Once the law enforcement executive has committed to this new philosophy of advanced organizational management, the challenge is assembling the appropriate team that can study, design, and facilitate the implementation of processes within the organization, developing a new, high-performing organization that is capable of operating as a fully functioning system.8 The team designated for this task should have expertise in each of the following areas of organizational management and understand the criticality of each of these areas to the agency’s overall success:

  • Strategic planning and strategic management processes
  • Operations management processes
  • Leadership philosophy and supervisory management practices
  • Efficiency-led policing, utilizing the latest available business intelligence
  • Intelligence-led and predictive policing, driven by current and accurate information and intelligence

An effective ISMS is predicated on developing the proper blend and balance of each of these concepts and science into a well-designed and well-orchestrated strategic plan with the appropriate and commensurate goals and objectives for the organization. As the team conducts this in-depth organizational analysis with commensurate recommendations for the redesign of the agency’s various functions, it should concentrate its initial efforts on identifying the typical symptoms associated with most organizational problems, issues, or concerns. Some of these areas follow:

  • Poor business practices
  • Lack of written or conflicting policies and standard operating procedures
  • Lack of required skill sets by employee workforce
  • Redundancy of effort
  • Areas of undue risks experienced
  • Ethical transgressions and violations of the rules and regulations
  • Morale issues
  • Mission creep
  • Inefficiencies in effort
  • Conflicting priorities
  • Major personality conflicts
  • Areas of disruptive or aggressive internal competition
  • Poor individual or team performance levels

To no surprise, research reveals almost all organizations were designed for working interdependently as systems and not as individual entities competing against each other or even engaging in outright conflict with one another, either administratively or operationally. Administrative functions and processes, along with the many operational actions of law enforcement organizations, should work in unison and toward the accomplishment of the organization’s overall mission. These processes designed; implemented; and led in a strong, forward-leaning, forward-thinking, high-performance law enforcement agency can achieve extraordinary levels of performance and success. If agencies operate with a system’s approach, they can find utility even in instances where an agency wants to change its entire operational philosophy. For example, when the chief of the Jackson, Michigan, Police Department decided to transform the agency’s traditional policing philosophy to one of community policing, the agency quickly realized that a major change in policing methodologies and philosophy of this magnitude requires the transformation of the entire agency, not just the addition of a unit or a responsibility. This desire to change the Jackson Police Department offered the chief the perfect opportunity to transform the entire agency into a fully operational ISMS.

The study, the design, and the use of organizations as ISMSs bring together the best leadership and organizational management practices available in the United States today. Ensuring that organizations work as well-designed systems has been proven many times to be the more productive and effective way to accomplish an organization’s mission. Proven processes and methods of effective and successful organizational management are within every law enforcement agency’s reach. The most important challenge yet to be overcome before this type of efficiency, effectiveness, and success can be realized en masse by even more law enforcement organizations is that law enforcement officials must understand and believe in the incredible potential this type of applied strategic management and the commensurate change in philosophy and perspective it can have on agencies.

Once the decision to proceed has been made and the commensurate commitment has been secured for this new initiative, the actual steps to this process must be initiated. The steps are both sequential and critical to the successful accomplishment of this transformation from a traditional, paramilitary style organization to a professional, 21st century, high-performance organization capable of producing high-quality law enforcement services both for today and for tomorrow.

Steps to Developing an Integrated Strategic Management System (ISMS)

Step One: Complete a comprehensive organizational analysis and inventory, including expectations, functionality, funding sources, tangible resources, employee workforce skill sets, policies, standard operating procedures, processes, core values, and so on.
Step Two: Develop an agency’s strategic plan, ensuring a collaborative effort for a shared vision.
Step Three: Design, develop, and organize all internal and external changes and resources required for the successful implementation and execution of the strategic plan.
Step Four: Execute the plan with an emphasis on managing the process (strategic management).
Step Five: Assign accountability and engage in consistent and ongoing assessment practices for all administrative and operational entities and functions.
Step Six: Implement required tactical changes daily and long-range, strategic changes through the organization’s strategic planning process.
Step Seven: Communicate your progress and success, both internally and externally, for future buy-in and growing and growing critical mass for future initiatives and change.
As can be seen in the sidebar, this sequential process requires a collaborative effort and complete cooperation within the agency.9 Internal, negative competition can further solidify the administrative versus operations sentiment that already exists in many organizations. This internal competition, inefficiency, and conflict can quickly boil over into heightened competition between operational field units, which could result in tangible issues for the agency such as poor team performance; low morale; misdirected efforts; overlooked priorities; increased liability; and an overall adverse impact on the organization’s core values, ethics, and culture.10

High Performance Is in Systems

Law enforcement agencies must revisit and complete a comprehensive organizational analysis and determine exactly where, when, why, and to what degree these dysfunctional relationships and processes exist and then set in motion a plan to redesign the entire organization into a well-defined, highly performing ISMS.

Integrating and utilizing the best practices of both the private and public sectors, culminating in a well-designed system, coupled with great leadership and a well-defined and agreed-upon vision and strategic plan, can result in an organization experiencing tremendous growth in both productivity and quality assurance. This philosophical change should result in the organization learning to concentrate on the more important and critical, impact-focused outcomes of the organization and not on the more obvious and readily accepted outputs tracked and measured by most agencies such as officers per 1,000 citizens, criminal arrest rates, crimes per 10,000 citizens, traffic arrest rates, and clearance rates—all of which have been traditionally accepted as proof of mission accomplishment or success.

Identifying, designing, and developing a completely new approach—or at the very least a redesigned, more holistic, systemic approach to your organization’s administrative functions and operations—should result in a convergence of all of the synergy required for your agency to remain a viable and sustainable law enforcement organization, appropriately positioned for success well into the 21st century. ■


1Vincent E. Henry, The CompStat Paradigm: Management Accountability in Policing, Business, and the Public Sector (Lushing, N.Y.: Looseleaf Law Publications, 2002), 1–3.
2Gregory A. Warren, “The Warren Integrated Strategic Management System” (model, Wilmington, Del.: Strategic Management Research Center, 2010).
3Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 1–31.
4Nancy Dale, “Turning Around an Agency: How the Fort Pierce Police Department Did It,” Law and Order 48 (November 2000): 87–91.
5Jerry H. Ratcliffe and Ray Guidetti, “State Police Investigative Structure and the Adoption of Intelligence-Led Policing,” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 31, no. 1 (2008): 109–128.
6Houston Police Department, “Two HPD Divisions Receive Prestigious Certification,” news release, October 12, 2011, (accessed January 31, 2012).
7Thad W. Allen, interview by Tom Philpott, “Mission to Modernize,” Military Officer (June 2008): 54–59, 79, 85, 87, 91.
8Barbara French and Jerry Stewart, “Organizational Development in a Law Enforcement Environment,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (September 2001): 14–19.
9Gregory Warren, “Delaware State Police—Di-CAT Strategic Planning Manual” (1997).
10Malcom K. Sparrow, Mark H. Moore, and David M. Kennedy, Beyond 911: A New Era for Policing (New York: Basic Books, 1990).

Please cite as:

Gregory A. Warren, "Is Your Agency an Integrated Strategic Management System?" The Police Chief 79 (March 2012): 38–41.

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXIX, no. 3, March 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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