Strategic planning for small- and mid-sized departments

To prepare and plan for the future, a few business concepts should be introduced to our profession

Your law enforcement agency is still facing the same problems it faced last year and the year before — budget, planning, and development.

To prepare and plan for the future, a few business concepts should be introduced to our profession. If used correctly (or at times, at all), these can help your organization succeed and certainly weather this storm of uncertain budgets.

As law enforcement leaders move toward data-driven decisions, these processes will help prepare you for the fight (discussion) with your boss about eliminating or keeping a program, or introducing something new.

Organizational Assessments
First and foremost, you must understand where your organization is, what it needs to grow (assets, physical plant, deployment, training), and other areas of concern. This means that you need to take the time and conduct an internal organizational assessment.

With law enforcement departments fighting for tax dollars and budget against the roads, parks and recreation, fire department, general city office, and any other project that is planned for the upcoming year, the best way is to be prepared to argue how the money will be used. Your proverbial ducks should be in a row.

“Organizational Assessments are powerful tools for identifying an organization’s strengths and weaknesses. They are a critical starting point for initiating any type of organizational change” (Stark 2009).

The organizational assessment process should be an honest critique of your organization. This type of assessment is not a “bitch session” but a critical review of your shortcomings, and things you are doing well.

For those working in larger organizations, this assessment can be done by units, divisions, or shifts. There are a variety of ways you can conduct an organization assessment; the most simple thing that can be done is to review data from dispatch and records and compare year over year statistics, and look for any dramatic increases and/or extreme reduction and attempt to provide an answer.

But another option is to examine everything: training, deployment, crime areas, investigations, patrol, and office operations.

Compare miles driven by shift, training issues, contacts, calls for service, and any data point that you would like to know about.

Comprehensive Planning
Comprehensive planning is key to achieving success in any long range plan, complex idea, or project. The process itself predates the United States of America. Comprehensive planning was used in drafting of important documents like the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

The process is used by businesses, schools, and all levels of government. The plan is something that is real and prepares the organization[s] for the future (Becker & Kelly, 2000).

Planning is a rational way of preparing for the future. It typically involves the gathering and analysis of data, the examination of possible future trends, the consideration of alternative scenarios, some score of analysis of costs, and benefits…choosing a preferred scenario and plan for implementation. (Becker & Kelly, p.17)

Organizational change is pervasive today, as organizations struggle to adapt or face decline in the volatile environments of a global economic and political world. The many potent forces in these environments — competition, technological innovations, professionalism, and demographics, to name a few — shape the process of organizational adaptation.

As a result, organizations may shift focus, modify goals, restructure roles and responsibilities, and develop new forms.

Adaptive efforts such as these may be said to fall under the general rubric of redesign. (National Research Council Staff, 1997, p. 11)

Strategic Planning
The strategic plan provides for:

1.) Better informed, more timely decisions through continuous strategic thinking
2.) Clear direction to the organization on what the company will do, and perhaps more importantly, what it will not do
3.) Greater empowerment with clearly understood boundaries communicated to the entire organization

Departmental Implications
With a solid comprehensive plan, law enforcement agencies should be able to sustain current funding trends and quite possible weather the storm when lean times come.

For example with data driven information, departments can demonstrate how they improve safety within their community. Specific information regarding traffic enforcement, arrests, investigations, and services can be used to demonstrate how effective the law enforcement agency.

Once the department has started the planning process it prepares for community changes to include;  demographic shifts, transit populations, tax decreases, and other problems that have recently confronted communities.

In Conclusion...
In these recent years, law enforcement funding has been difficult to forecast. Budgets are shrinking, grant opportunities are few and far between.

Preparing for the future through comprehensive planning, and strategic planning is key to long-lasting survival. Projecting when you will need to replace things and how to use money effectively is of vital importance.

Try to forecast for the future you will be surprised with what improvements and changes you will be able to prepare and plan for.

Becker, B., & Kelly, E. (2000). A Community Planning An Introduction to Comprehensive Planning. Colevo: Island Press.

Duncan, J., Ginter, M., & Swayne, L., (1998). Competitive advantages and internal organizational assessment. Academy of Management Executive, 12, 3. Retrieved March 19, 2009 from Ebsco Host Megafile.

National Research Council. (1997). Staff. Enhancing Organizational Performance. Washington DC: National Academies Press.

Palmatier, G, (2008). Strategic planning: An executives aid for strategic thinking, Development and Deployment. Outside Logistics, Retrieved March 19, 2009 from Ebsco Host Megafile

Stark, P.B. (2009). Organizational Assessments. Retrieved March 19, 2009. from Peter Barron Stark Companies

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