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A Systems Approach to Organizational Transformation.

All law enforcement agencies experience varying degrees of change due to such factors as a new administration, new policing methods, or new crime trends. In recent years, however, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) has faced the challenge of implementing multiple changes that have had a significant effect on how the agency operates. Specifically, between 1995 and 1997, a new governor, a new WSP chief; and a new problem-oriented policing philosophy set in motion changes that led the agency to rethink its operational procedures and organizational structure, in short, how it does business.

The new governor and the state legislature mandated that all state agencies develop and implement a Quality Initiative program (Quality) (1) to enhance public trust in state government and employ strategic plans that would facilitate a transition to performance-based budgeting. At the same time, the new WSP chief adopted a community-based policing philosophy that the agency named Problem-Oriented Public Safety (POPS). (2) Although POPS concentrates on public safety issues and Quality on business practice processes, both philosophies focus on the customer.


The WSP viewed these change requirements as presenting three main challenges. One involved achieving total integration of the new POPS and Quality philosophies. (3) The second dealt with adopting an entirely new approach to strategic planning. This required district and division commanders to develop strategic plans that support the agency plan and that shift the focus from counting traditional outputs (i.e., duties, such as the number of traffic stops and arrests made, collisions investigated, and fingerprint cards processed) to measuring meaningful outcomes (i.e., results, such as reduced collisions, increased freight mobility, and real-time criminal identification). The third, and most monumental challenge, entailed changing the organizational culture from top to bottom, representing the surest hope of institutionalizing a better way of doing business.

This final challenge supports the theory that those agencies succeeding in implementing change took a systematic approach and reformed the agency infrastructure to support the desired change. (4) Since 1997, the WSP has reviewed and redesigned a significant portion of its system's infrastructure, including a new agency strategic plan (a 5-year plan updated annually) supported by individual district and division plans; new awards program selection criteria; revised sergeant and lieutenant promotional processes; re-engineered training processes; revised job performance appraisal systems; and a new management tool (loosely modeled after one devised by the New York City Police Department), the Strategic Advancement Forum. While all of these efforts helped the WSP face the challenges of implementing multiple changes, the agency viewed two systems as essential to driving the integration of POPS, Quality, and outcome-based performance measurement-its job performance appraisal system (JPA) and Strategic Advancement Forum (SAF).


Most performance appraisal systems do not tie individual goals and performance to organizational goals and performance. (5) Typically, the completed performance appraisal form and interview represent an isolated event focusing on the individual employee's performance, independent of the agency's strategy or direction. Compounding this "disconnect," most appraisals focus on the employee's past performance, independent of the agency's current and future direction. The WSP set out to break this trend.

JPA Development

On July 1, 2000, the WSP implemented two new JPAs-one for troopers and sergeants and the other for lieutenants. This marked the culmination of an effort that began in January 1998, when the WSP formed a committee of representatives from key stakeholder groups, including members of the Troopers Association, to ensure that it would address the concerns of all of its personnel. The committee reviewed a wide variety of information- WSP's previous JPA; other agency JPAs; over 2,000 recent publications and court cases concerning JPAs; WSP's strategic plan; and the principles of POPS and Quality- and began developing the new JPA system (form, manual, and process).

After obtaining provisional approval from the executive staff and representatives of affected officers, the WSP piloted the new JPA in two of its eight field districts. After the pilot, district representatives provided input to the committee. The biggest concern was that individual officers would be held accountable for achievement of a goal. They are not. Officers are only accountable to demonstrate that their individual work effort supported the goal. For example, troopers in a particular patrol area may have a goal to reduce collisions by 3 percent on a certain stretch of highway; however, the area experiences a prolonged period of adverse weather conditions that offset their best enforcement and problem-solving efforts and collisions actually increase by 5 percent. As long as the officers' work reports (data) document the weather conditions and demonstrate that the officers focused their efforts in the target area and engaged in problem solving, they would receive a favorable evaluation. With this type of feedback in mind, the committee modified the JPA accordingly and gained final approval from the executive staff and representatives of affected officers for statewide implementation. In May 2000, the WSP launched an extensive training effort. By July 31, every commissioned officer (6) had received training. To take full advantage of this statewide training opportunity, the WSP expanded the SPA training to include strategic planning and performance measurement elements as well.

The JPA Form

The new SPA form consists of three sections. The first section, a fairly standard evaluation format, consists of both traditional core WSP values (e.g., appearance, courtesy, and integrity) and newer dimensions derived from the agency's strategic plan, POPS, and Quality (e.g., problem-solving skills, partnership cultivation, and interest/knowledge of citizen concerns). In this section, supervisors rate officers on 29 critical dimensions employing a scale of fails to meet, meets, or exceeds expectations. Raters use behavioral benchmarks within each dimension to guide their evaluations.

The WSP designed the second section to drive the change of focus to the local strategic plan and outcome performance measures, rather than the traditional enforcement approach toward common objectives, such as reducing speed and alcohol-related collisions. (7) Hence, the second section of the SPA form outlines the goals, action plans, and performance measures developed by officers in autonomous patrol areas or work units (8) (this also applies to nonfield personnel), as well as any additional expectations of the supervisor. For troopers and sergeants, the third section documents that the supervisor administered a regulation manual knowledge exam on policies that encompass areas concerning officer safety and agency risk management. For lieutenants, the section consists of a professional growth and development plan.

The JPA Process

The WSP designed its new JPA system to guide performance efforts, as much as to appraise performance. The system focuses on the process, not on filling out a form. The new system is driving "a different way of doing business" in which officers direct the majority of their "discretionary" time efforts toward specific goals and performance measures of their patrol area. For example, instead of supervisors judging officers mainly by outputs (i.e., how many cars did they stop), these managers now judge their officers on outcomes (i.e., what activities they engaged in that support the goals of their patrol area).

The old way of doing business (output focus) encouraged officers to migrate toward "fishing holes" where abundant violators existed, but where problems with collisions or congestion may not have occurred. Under the new philosophy, (9) supervisors now judge officers more by the amount of. time they spend in problem areas and in problem-solving efforts, with full understanding that their "numbers," or outputs, may decrease.

The new runs on a semiannual cycle (January through June and July through December). The process begins with the pre-appraisal conference that occurs at the beginning of the appraisal period.

The JPA process is linked closely to the strategic plan, which the agency updates annually. Performance expectations begin with the local goals and performance measures that already exist; however, individual work units have a great deal of flexibility in developing their action plans, or how they plan to accomplish their goals. For example, if supervisors have a goal with a 10-step action plan designed to support its accomplishment, they may require every trooper to participate in each step, or, more likely, they may employ a group-oriented approach or capitalize on the individual talents of troopers within their detachment.

During the pre-appraisal conference, supervisors communicate individual expectations to the employee. Depending on the individual being evaluated, the supervisor may add individual expectations focusing on behavioral dimensions outlined in the first section of the JPA form as well.

Supervisors report monthly on their work unit's progress. District commanders report strategic plan progress on a districtwide basis to headquarters in a standardized monthly command activity report that also requires reports on Quality and POPS activities that occurred during the previous month.

At any time during the 6-month appraisal period, the supervisor administers a standardized knowledge exam provided by the WSP Academy during the first month of the appraisal period. The supervisor immediately grades the exam and records the results (pass/fail) in the third section of the JPA form. If officers give any incorrect responses or receive a failing grade, they must undergo retraining at that time to ensure that they return to duty knowing all of the correct answers to critical policy questions.

During the post-appraisal evaluation conference, the supervisor reviews the individual officer's performance data (10) and assigns an appropriate rating. Supervisors should detect performance problems, if any, as they occur because they review work reports on a daily basis. In extreme cases of poor performance, supervisors can implement a job performance improvement plan.


The WSP realized that the new JPA would help drive change from mid-level managers down to the line level. However, the WSP needed a mechanism to assist district and division commanders to drive and energize the implementation of their strategic plans while providing an accountability link between the command and executive staff levels. The WSP found the solution in a new management tool loosely modeled on one devised by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). (11) Although the WSP does not have the technology or personnel resources of the NYPD, the agency recognized how it could apply the managerial accountability inherent in the NYPD model while building its technology infrastructure to meet increasing data requirements.

SAF Development

The WSP established a committee to build a model that provided an active, two-way communication and accountability link between its command- and executive-level managers. The agency named its process the Strategic Advancement Forum (SAF) to encapsulate the desired purpose of the process--to report strategic plan progress in an open forum that also allows idea sharing among peer commanders; to provide an arena for two-way communication between the command and executive staffs; to create an environment where commanders could practice collaborative problem solving, consistent with the POPS philosophy, of obstacles they face; and to enhance accountability and leadership development of agency managers.

The SAF Process

During a 6-month cycle, each of the agency's five bureaus (12) conducts one SAF. In the course of the SAF, each district or division commander makes a presentation to the SAF panel consisting of the chief, the assistant chief, and the presenter's bureau commander. The WSP conducted its initial SAF in January 2000 and the second SAF the following September and October. The WSP has scheduled subsequent SAFs to occur on a 6-month cycle in March and September of each year.

The agency provides district/division commanders with a "script" to assist them in preparing for their presentation. The purpose of the script is to clearly communicate the chiefs priorities and to drive the district/division commanders' efforts toward facilitating needed organizational transformation within their areas of responsibility. Moreover, by having pre-exposure to a script, district and division commanders can go into the SAF knowing what to expect with minimal fear of being caught off guard. However, the SAF panel follows many responses with some pointed questions that require the commanders to demonstrate their grasp of the issues. The first two SAFs included such questions as the following:

* What have you done to implement your strategic plans?

* Describe what happened (progress in establishing performance measure baselines; goal/objective achievements; and difficulties/obstacles experienced inhibiting success).

* Give examples of what you have done to integrate POPS/Quality concepts into your action plans.

* What performance measures do you have and do they measure outputs or outcomes?

* What outcomes do your outputs support?

* Do you have any qualitative (customer-focused) performance measures?

The WSP changes the scripted questions every 6-month cycle. The agency also will broaden the questions from implementation focus to results focus as the new system progresses.

The SAF Evaluation

The WSP distributed a survey to every district and division commander 2 weeks following the initial SAF. Twenty-four of its 32 commanders (75 percent) responded with some startling feedback, including-

* 75 percent agreed that SAF served as an effective means for reporting their strategic planning implementation efforts;

* 58 percent believed that the SAF actually improved communication between executive and command staffs;

* 62 percent felt that the SAF provided a learning environment; and

* 75 percent adopted the SAF management model within their own district/division.

These figures represent an impressively positive response for a first-time review of a management model that was controversial in its implementation. A compilation of the narrative comments included on the survey proved especially valuable and allowed the WSP to modify the process protocols between SAF cycles.


While it is too early to have any substantial data on how well the new JPA and SAF systems are operating, the results of internal and external surveys provide evidence of a positive trend. First, the State Department of Personnel administered a WSP employee survey in 1999 and 2000. The 2000 survey ratings were higher in every category, including job satisfaction.

In addition, a statewide citizen survey administered by the Washington State University in late 2000 rated the greater Wenatchee area the highest among the eight WSP districts. This proves significant because Wenatchee served as a pilot district for POPS integration and the revised JPA implementation.


True integration of a new management philosophy requires a complete organizational transformation. To accomplish this, an agency must adapt its infrastructure to support the philosophies and ideologies being implemented; otherwise, the culture of the agency will not change.

The Washington State Patrol set out to effect multiple changes through a two-pronged approach. By implementing a new job performance appraisal system and a new management tool, the agency strove to drive change at every level of the organization. While the Washington State Patrol recognizes that organizational transformation requires a 5- to 7-year process to fully infiltrate agency culture and become a way of doing business, it has made significant advances toward this goal in the past few years. With this in mind, the agency remains confident that its early successes will continue and even increase in the future.

Captain Ursino heads the Washington State Patrol's Criminal Records Division in Olympia.


(1.) In April 1997, the governor directed all state agencies to develop and implement a program to improve the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of the public services they provide. The mandate was simple--find out what is not working well and fix it. Quality improvements and regulatory reform go band in hand, with a focus on improving customer service. The WSP encourages its employees to be creative, to have ownership of their work, to be innovative, and to use technology to better serve the citizens of Washington. Toward that end, the WSP has established an internal Quality consultant position. Also, every district and division has a Quality liaison who has received Quality process improvement training, and every WSP employee has received Quality awareness training.

(2.) POPS is the WSP's community-based policing philosophy that brings the agency, citizens, and other stakeholder groups together as working partners to address public safety issues. The WSP obtained a grant to hire 72 new troopers to replace the 72 veteran troopers that the agency selected to become POPS troopers. These troopers received 2 weeks of training in the POPS philosophy. Between July 1998 and August 2000, the WSP deployed these troopers throughout the state to initiate POPS projects that focus on priorities established in the strategic plan and to involve their peers in problem-solving efforts. This strategy eventually will result in all troopers receiving training in POPS, achieving WSP's goal of evolving from a split force model (having specialized POPS troopers) to a total integration model (where problem solving becomes a way of doing business for all officers) by the end of 2003.

(3.) The integration effort began in 1997, with the goal of total integration by 2003.

(4.) Herman Goldstein, Problem-Oriented Policing (New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 1990).

(5.) Dick Grote, "Public Sector Organizations: Today's Innovative Leaders in Performance Management," Public Personnel Management 29, no.1 (spring 2000).

(6.) The WSP has approximately 1,000 commissioned officers statewide.

(7.) Although the WSP's primary mission is traffic law enforcement, it also functions in other public safety areas, including investigative, technical, forensic, and fire services.

(8.) The WSP covers eight geographic districts within the state. Each district has several autonomous patrol areas that describe each detachment's work area or unit.

(9.) One of the ways the WSP is encouraging its employees to accept the POPS philosophy involves teaching them how the SARA (scanning, analysis, response, assessment) problem-solving model also achieves their need to measure outcome performances developed during the strategic planning process. The response phase in SARA represents the effort of their action plans, or outputs, while the assessment phase measures the outcome of their efforts (something the WSP traditionally has not measured).

(10.) The WSP is developing information systems to give supervisors/managers the ability to access real-time data, as well as officer activity data, by location and time of day.

(11.) The author first observed NYPD's CampStat Management model while attending the FBI National Academy in 1999 and further studied the approach during a conference in New York City later that year.

(12.) The WSP is organized into five bureaus: Field Operations, Investigative Services, Technical Services, Fire Protection, and Forensic Services Laboratory Bureau.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Washington State Patrol
Author:Ursino, Brian A.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Geographic Code:1U9WA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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