How to Standardise Investigations


It’s our business to provide companies with a standardised and structured investigative process. Consequently, we are often asked, “what are the key features to consider?”. Here is a synopsis, which might help you focus your thoughts. Much of what follows depends on the size of your company, but we hope the suggestions stimulate some debate.

1. Have you considered setting aside a specific room in your offices for major investigations? This room need not be for exclusive use, but perhaps kitted out in such a way that, once booked, would have all you need in it without any further preparation. What should you include? Charts, Post-its and pens of course, sufficient wall space, and table space, along with plenty of power points, and good quality Wi-Fi on constant supply.

2. Do you have a system for deciding on the level of investigation required? Low, Medium and High. If the incident is a ‘near hit’ with no serious consequences, do you use the Potential Consequences to fix the level of investigation? If not, you should.

3. If your company is large, you should consider setting up a bespoke team to deal with major incidents. This team will be well-trained, well-practised and well-proven.

4. Do you want all your employees to be familiar with the investigation process? If you do, there is a very economical and simple way of doing this. Get Kelvin TOP-SET to train and certificate an in-company tutor, who can then teach the process to as many of your employees as you wish, at minimal cost.

5. Develop a standard proforma for an investigation Terms of Reference. The ToR is a key link between the ‘owner’ of the investigation and the investigation team. It is very important that the ‘owner’ always gives clear and unambiguous guidance to the team as to how the investigation should be conducted and concluded.

6. Standardise your Storyboarding practices as follows:

a. Consider the use of time lines. Remember, there are two places on the Storyboard where time lines can be recorded.

b. Consider the colour coding of Post-its. Is the traffic lights system a good one? If so, are you happy with the basic red-green option, or do you want to introduce the amber option?

c. Should you insist in using the POET categories on the Storyboard? You must have good reason to do so.

7. Are you going to insist on an interim report, or a regular reporting schedule as the investigation proceeds? We would strongly advise this.

8. Are you going to insist on a Root Cause Analysis in every report, or only in selected levels of the report? It may come as a surprise, but in the most minor of incidents, good RCAs can often suffice on their own.

9. Are you going to ask for recommendations? Some might think this is a given, but it isn’t. A number of companies around the world ask for incident investigations without any recommendations. They say, “Tell us what happened, and we will decide what to do about it”. Why is that? Well, there’s one very simple reason: if an investigator gives a recommendation, that a company decides not to implement, and the same incident happens again sometime later because that recommendation was not enacted, then the company lays itself open to litigation.

Having a standardised approach to investigating makes it far easier to get on with the job when it really matters. Please contact us if you’d like more information about how to do this.

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