From Personnel Confusion to Clarity: Kelso Police Department Uses SmartDraw to Create Citywide Organizational Chart

When the City of Kelso, Washington needed a better way to keep track of city personnel changes while also allowing citizens to easily identify city officials, Ed Nelson knew just what to do. Using SmartDraw, he created an at-a-glance view of all city employees in their proper reporting structure.

Ed Nelson, who has worked as an IT contractor for the past seven years after retiring from a 24-year career as a sergeant, has seen his share of city employees joining and leaving the ranks.

He's also seen many different types of organizational charts regularly submitted by each department listing employees and their job functions following each change.

"We didn't have one chart where we could easily view personnel. Some of the charts by submitted by departments were in Word®, some were on a spreadsheet, some were just written down," recalls Ed. "Citizens would come into the department and say, 'I just talked to someone from Public Works,' not knowing who it was. We knew that we needed to have one chart, with every employee's position and photo, and how their position related to others in order to respond to citizens more effectively."

Emerging from Organizational Chaos

Ed looked for a tool to help bring clarity to the city government's human resource pool, and discovered that the solution was already in the department.

"I had bought the Legal Edition of SmartDraw so I could have the templates for crime scenes and police forms. But when I explored it further I discovered how really easy it was to create flowcharts and organizational charts."

Ed then went to work on a citywide organizational chart.

"I quickly made a chart of one department and included the employee's photo above their name. Then, I decided to join each department together. The chart kept getting bigger and bigger because once people saw it, EVERYONE had to be on there, from the police officers and city council members to the secretaries and front desk clerks."

Ed sent the large, all-inclusive chart to print on the department's plotter, and a 10' by 36" chart emerged that was readable to all. Today it is proudly displayed in the department's receiving room, along with copies on the walls of the city manager's office and well as city council chambers.

Ed jokes that "the city was so happy with how the chart turned out, they were going to throw me a party!"

City of Kelso organizational chart
Figure 1. City of Kelso organizational chart, created in SmartDraw

Ed admits that prior to the purchase of SmartDraw, he had tried Visio® to create organizational charts. "It was a nightmare. I had a hard time with it, trying to draw everything myself and moving the boxes around. Visio® was really confusing and it felt convoluted to me. I'm very glad we ended up with SmartDraw."

Change is Not a Problem

Creating the chart in SmartDraw was not only easy, fast and professional-looking, but changing the chart is also a breeze.

"It is so simple to go into SmartDraw and change a librarian's name, or change a position when someone gets promoted. If a position gets eliminated, that's easy to change, too. Everything is drag and drop and the chart reforms automatically and perfectly," notes Ed, who says he has updated the chart 10-15 times so far and sometimes prints out only the edited section to save paper.

Used on Many Levels

Today, when the city manager gets a compliment or a complaint from a citizen walking into the office, "people can say, that's the guy, right there!" The charts have also helped citizens who attend council meetings and want to know who the city prosecutor is, or who is the police chief. The charts represent an easy visual way to introducing city employees in a way that is memorable.

City managers also use the charts for budgeting purposes, when personnel issues are in consideration.

"The city managers have used it for discussions about departmental consolidation or moving supervisors around. In the current economic client, it's easy to use the chart to determine if one person is going to retire, how they can reconfigure other departments around that change."