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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Are you thinking "BIG" picture when looking at your processes?

Do you work for a police department, or a law enforcement agency? Yes, they are essentially the same, but the title can portray significant differences. A police department is just that...Police. A law enforcement agency, on the other hand, can be described as full service, having police, corrections, court security and several other agency operated support services. Why is this important to Lean Six Sigma you ask? Here is why.

When looking at changes throughout a department, one needs to be able to understand the "BIG" picture. When a process is developed, or redesigned with a new future state, be sure that all departments within the agency were thought of before putting the new process in play. This will help ensure the best possible outcome for the agency overall. Time and time again it seems to happen. Someone spends a lot of valuable time and effort on a project, only to realize that they scoped it to include only their department. All the while, another part of the agency could have used a similar solution. If not caught early on, this can lead to several types of waste, to include competing solutions or duplication of efforts, or worse yet, never even realizing that there was a need somewhere else. Don't worry, you are not alone. My agency, your agency, and every other agency out there does it, or probably has in the past...it's the nature of the beast.

About 13 years ago our agency developed a report writing application that made it possible for Police Officers to send General Offense Reports and Arrest and Booking Reports wirelessly, to a supervisor for approval, where it was then saved on a server. This was a huge milestone for us, and today, some agencies are still not to this point yet. But, we totally forgot about our Corrections Department. While the Police Officers were enjoying the paperless system of sending electronic reports from laptop computers in their vehicles, our 800 plus Corrections Officers were still writing reports on a piece of paper. How did they get left out? Why did no one notice, or correct the error, after all these years? Well, there are probably several different answers. The fact of the matter is that when the original system was built, the scope of the project was not broad enough to include the Corrections Department.

Finally, after 13 years, our Corrections Officers are transitioning to our paperless reporting system. Many of these Corrections Officers will become Police Officers in the future. Now, they will bring with them the same report writing skill set that Police Officers learn when they get hired. They will start their new positions ahead of the learning curve. This will allow them to concentrate more closely on other issues during Police Recruit training.

This lack of "BIG" picture thinking is what we call a missed opportunity, or the cost of poor quality. How far did 13 years of missed training and lack of data analysis for an entire department set our agency back on it's journey to be premiere? No one really knows, because you never miss what you never had, right? But, I think everyone agrees that electronic reports should have come to our Corrections Department long ago.

Here is the lesson...think "BIG" picture, then scope down as needed. It is better to include too many people when discussing a new project, than to wish you had included them several years later. Transparency can be your allie.


  1. Wow, what a great blog.

    I didn't know Lean Six Sigma principles were being used by police / correction departments.

    Are the officers learning data anlysis tools such as normal distrubution? Outliers? Statistical prediction? CpK? The relationship between data and improvement? Pareto Charts?

    If so, that is great and hats off to you.

    I like to know more, so I will check back from time to time.

  2. Thanks Robert. It is always great to hear individuals like yourself appreciating law enforcement's efforts to increase quality of service and reduce process waste. For the most part, we are using a lot of LEAN tools, simply because they are easier for the layman to grasp. The entire agency goes through an introductory course after being hired, with basic concepts of LEAN and Six Sigma. Asking them to grasp the statistical side takes time though. This task is usually left up to the Continuous Improvement Unit itself with assistance from SME's in the field. Thanks again for tuning in! Billy