Investigation Tool: The Storyboard

15/11/2019

We at Kelvin TOP-SET make use of a Storyboard system as an investigation tool for recording the progress of our investigations prior to completing a root cause analysis. The idea is not unique. Storyboarding is primarily used in the film industry, where animations and film clips are planned out in advance.

We certainly advocate the concept of Storyboarding for planning, but we take the process one step further by suggesting that the Storyboard is used throughout the entire incident investigation as the storehouse of all information relating to the investigation. In particular, facts you know, and questions that require an answer. Much else can be recorded too: time lines, details of witnesses, photographs, documentation, sources of evidence, and the all-important Incident Statement.

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If someone leaves the investigation team, their work is not lost in their computer files; it is there for all to see.
If the boss wants to have a quick check of progress, it’s all there for her to see.
The Post-its that populate the board can be moved, stuck over one-another, and colour coded in a multitude of ways, to suit the preferences of the investigation team.
The open, transparent nature of the Storyboard encourages sharing, teamwork, discussion and debate. It discourages the blinkered, silo approach to work, which so often occurs in offices around the world.

How might the Storyboard be used?

Our Storyboards are laid out in such a way that they encourage compartmentalisation. There’s no compulsion to compartmentalise, but the concept often aids to clarify thoughts and work in general. So, if you wish to place Post-its in the POET categories of People, Organisation, Environment and Technology, then you are enabled to do so. There’s also a reminder at the foot of the Storyboard investigation tool to not forget the history of previous events. Post-its are stuck to the Storyboard, of course. So, what are the rules? There are very few:

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Don’t throw them away, even if you think they are no longer relevant. They are a good record of your thoughts at the time.
Write them in a way that others can understand, and you know what you mean, one week or even one month later.
Try to keep to one issue per Post-it.
If you are using different colours of Post-its, always give a colour-code key at the top of the Storyboard.

Timelines are very useful, and there are a number of different ways in which they can be employed on our Storyboards:

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Use the table on the left-hand side for the day’s events. Use small Post-its for this.
Use the long axis of the Storyboard for longer timescales, i.e. events happening in the days, weeks, months and years building up to the event.
Arrange your Post-its on the Storyboard in a time-related way.

To conclude, the Storyboard tool is a wonderful platform on which to base your incident investigation and to be frank, the way you use it is largely up to you and your team to decide.

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