Diary of a delegate

Diary of a Delegate

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What is it like to attend a TOP-SET Senior Investigator Course? The Diary of a Delegate.

Day 1

The first day of my Kelvin TOP-SET 3-Day Senior Investigator Course started on a strong note. I was shown to an excellent meeting room in a well-appointed hotel in an equally well-appointed part of London. Even had I not been familiar with the area, I would certainly have felt comfortable and assured in this particular locale. Similarly, the facilities were excellent. Good coffee and catering are a good start if we’re spending three days training here!

A room full of delegates assembled, 20 to be accurate. We were a delegation of varying cultures, nationalities, genders, and job roles, to list a handful of our differences. There’s a concern at the back of my mind immediately, however; I worry that the course will be just another seminar, a PowerPoint masterclass. But it became abundantly clear within minutes of meeting our tutor, Jamie, that I was miles off the mark. Greeted on entry with a smile and some warm conversation, I immediately felt at ease.

Similarly, as the course kicked off in earnest, I saw very quickly that the next three days were going to be brought to life and made accessible by a very personable tutor who was clearly not just an expert in what he was delivering but passionate and proud to be associated with Kelvin TOP-SET. For a delegate, this is a really good sign!

What followed on this first day was an intensive day of learning. The TOP-SET methodology and its applications were covered in depth. We were taught the various stages of the process and how to use the tools that facilitate it – the TOP-SET indicator card, Storyboards, Root Cause Analysis charts and the ubiquitous Post-It’s. We looked at real-life situations and also situations inspired by real-life accompanied by footage both real and computer generated. And, interestingly, we often explored industries removed from what many of us were used to – a good teaching technique to help encourage open thinking on our part.

Day 1 wrapped up after a lot of learning, lots to think about and digest. Jamie, the tutor, stayed in the room and was open for conversation after we finished – a quick chat and I was reassured that Day 1 was indeed intense but it would all make sense soon!


Day 2

We launched into a case study fairly early on which was a welcome way of consolidating the learning from yesterday in a practical, intuitive way. Working with individuals from different cultures and industries was not only interesting but forced us all to think out of our comfort zones whilst working in groups. Our tutor, Jamie, was on hand to assure us when doubt crept in about our application of TOP-SET but he very much encouraged our effective teamwork. Conducting an RCA based on the limited knowledge from our condensed investigation was something I expected to be a real challenge – and if left to our own devices it would have been! Jamie’s explanation of the logical flow and movement of time involved in an RCA, and the small steps from one stage to the next really made a daunting task a lot more manageable.

A stronger focus on the human element today too encouraged some debate and discussion throughout the room and led to the consensus that human behaviour lies at the core of incidents – although responsibility, fault and blame are not synonyms. This a good reminder that all incidents have a human component.

A thoroughly intriguing aspect of today was the Myers-Briggs Personality Style Inventory. This was not a branding exercise but instead was very much framed as a way of understanding personalities, something that, as an investigation leader, will be key to any future successes. This was a really interesting look at our own personalities, the similarities in the room and also with our tutor who shared his. More interestingly it shone a light on the problems that we may run into when assembling investigation teams and how to mitigate these.

This pattern continued with various exercises exposing human fallibility, bias and differing perceptions. A focus on interviewing – the ‘how to’s,’ the strengths and the flaws and the importance of corroboration! A group interview session was a particular eye-opener to effective interviewing techniques!

Finally – an excellent finish to the day of a short group presentation carrying out a condensed TOP-SET investigation into a minor incident experienced by an individual in the past. Most incidents were light-hearted which provided a nice finish to the day but the real point was that we quickly realised how scalable the TOP-SET system is. Equally effective for a cut finger preparing Sunday lunch as it is for a towering inferno. This finished the day on a really key point – and I left with my mind abuzz with the potential applications for this methodology.


Day 3

The sound of three days’ worth of training clicking into place may not have been actually audible but it was certainly obvious on the third day of the Kelvin TOP-SET 3-Day Senior Investigator Course.

The walls of the training room, now a veritable kaleidoscope adorned with TOP-SET Storyboards and Root Cause Analysis Charts and the scores of brightly coloured TOP-SET post-its that now peppered them, are a testament to how far the training had taken us in these three days. It was a visual representation of how this challenging, dynamic course was delivered in a way that just made sense to our delegation. A delegation as I mentioned consisting of varying cultures, nationalities, genders and job roles to list a handful of our differences – but come to the end of our 3-Day Senior Investigator experience, if we had one similarity, it was that we all comfortably grasped the TOP-SET process.

I do believe that feeling was shared amongst the delegates as the previous days spent training, learning the TOP-SET methodology and practising its application came to life in a brilliantly administered “live” case study. Working in a small group which I would probably never have chosen for myself, highlighting what our PSI taught us on day 2, the TOP-SET methodology came to life in what I really believe was the closest thing to a live incident that could have been simulated for us. Everything we had learnt until then was beautifully brought together and made sense.

We conducted live interviews under time constraints with “witnesses” of varying reliability and levels of cooperation. Information, some more relevant than others, was drip fed to us as it would be in a real situation.

The importance of teamwork was obvious and no group could succeed without it. Delegation and effective leadership skills are at the heart of a successful investigation and positive outcome. The challenges and frustrations that would come in a real-life situation were there too – not enough information, witnesses not forthcoming enough, CCTV footage taking too long to arrive. I firmly believe this was the closest our central London conference room could be to the shop floor of a workplace.

The day passed in the blink of an eye – by now a real sense of camaraderie had emerged in the room. We were all very different individuals but come to the end of our 3-Day Senior Investigator Course if we had one similarity, it was that we comfortably grasped the TOP-SET process thanks to the delivery and teaching methods underpinning this learning experience.

Jamie, who led these three days superbly, in an intriguing, exciting and constructive way, took the time to thoroughly examine the culmination of our learning pulling out teaching points for our reference and highlighting our successes. We were never lectured at any point during this TOP-SET course, instead, the whole thing felt like an open discussion in which every individual’s contribution enriched the experience. A model for trainers everywhere!


For more information about the 3-Day Senior Investigator Course and to see how TOP-SET can improve your investigations click here.