Fusing Technical IT and Human Investigations Skills
In light of “The Great Post Office Scandal” in the UK, and other well-publicised investigation catastrophes, the recent innovative strategic partnership between the subject matter expertise of the team at Intersol Global (IG) with Symplicity Advocate case management solution could not be more timely and topical.
That partnership will include a regular series of jointly authored “Investigation Insights”.
Bringing to bear over 100 years of practical investigation experience, the authors will take you on a journey through the human skills that combine to deliver investigation outcomes that are reliable, fair, impartial, and thorough.
A constant ‘thorn in the side’ for IG since their launch 10 years ago is a persisting disorientation about what an investigation really is. Investigations can be life and career-altering, yet the investigation profession in the UK remains totally unregulated and anybody can set themselves up as an investigator with no qualification or experience. So, to launch this series let’s examine what ‘investigation’ really means.
What is an investigation? The hunt for a ‘head on a stick’, or an impartial search for verifiable and reliable detail?
We asked Ian Hynes what Investigation means from the perspective of IG who focus on training and qualifying investigators; and advising on, and conducting investigations across several sectors, utilising the Symplicity Advocate case management system to record and manage investigation progress and actions.
Media sensationalism and stereotyping would have you believe the former. Qualified, and skilled investigators the latter. Damage caused by the former, ‘head on a stick’ blame mindset, is potentially irreparable, risking the creation of a narrative that (naturally through confirmatory biases) ignores exculpatory evidence in favour of only those lines of inquiry that inculpate.
The word ‘investigation’ has its origins in the Latin ‘investigare’, derived from an old French word of the same name, and ‘investigation’ is closely associated with the Latin ‘vestigium’, meaning trace, footstep, footprint, or track. (Griffiths & Shepherd OED).
The journey of a professional investigation demands commitment and energy to enquire in detail, observe carefully, and examine systematically; to examine objectively every trace, footprint, or track. It is a cognitively demanding role. Common to every investigation is the commitment of human resource and, increasingly, the application of technology. In the opinion of the author there has been an over reliance and emphasis on the technical at the expense of the ‘human’.
Investigation demands a systematic process from issue to outcome, from report to determination, travelling the investigation journey from information or intelligence to evidence and searching diligently for checkable detail on the way. That detail should then be subjected to a scientific test of validity (internal or external, hard facts and soft facts) to establish reliability and truth.
Hard facts might be scientific records of the weather at the time of a health and safety incident, verifiable computer records in an audit, concurrent visual and audio evidence in a misconduct case. ‘Soft facts’ might include corroboration or consistency, though such evidence can be precarious and should attract closer scrutiny of origin.
Civil cases that rely on one word against another, serious sexual misconduct, bullying, harassment in the workplace, for example, are particularly challenging and this is what drives our passion at IG, putting the investigative meeting (interview) back at the heart of the investigation. In such cases it is critical that those conducting the meeting are qualified and skilled to do so. So much can be corrupted at this stage by poor questioning, biases, and memory contamination.
Investigations can be reactive, a response to an incident or issue, or proactive, seeking to prevent an incident or issue.
Neither is about seeking to apportion blame from the outset at all costs, notwithstanding detail obtained during the process might identify institutional wrongdoing, shortcomings, or culpability by an individual or individuals.
Remembering the potentially damaging impact of poor investigation, what is crucial in all is that the output of the process must be as detailed, accurate, and reliable as possible to best inform decision-making.
In the criminal world investigations are conducted to a very high standard of proof known as ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. In the world of civil law and investigation that standard of proof is lowered to what is called ‘balance of probabilities, a concept worthy of a separate article but acknowledged in all our operations so that investigation withstands audit and scrutiny.
In conclusion, the investigation is ultimately the search for the truth of the matter being reviewed. It is a process designed to gather and examine all the relevant evidence to help reconstruct a past event. For example, when an aircraft crashes, an investigation is undertaken to identify the cause of the accident, what occurred, and any other issues or problems. The results of the investigation are used to help prevent other crashes through policy changes, increased training, inspections, or general information/awareness.
Using a defined investigative process or methodology is critical, otherwise, the attempt to track or trace what occurred, when, how, and why, it occurred, could turn into a wild goose chase. Resources are wasted, unreliable decisions made, and lives, careers, and reputations endangered.
Professional investigation walks the critical tightrope of non-judge mentality, controlling the investigator’s nemesis, confirmation bias, with empathy and emotional intelligence. Assuming nothing, Believing nobody, Checking everything, and, more recently, Documenting decision-making and rationale, the ABCD of investigation instilled on delegates on day 1 of any investigation training course, and an even more compelling reason for fusing the technical IT excellence of Symplicity Advocate with the non-technical human investigation skills of IG.
The only vocational qualification in the world.
Intersol Global can train and qualify you with meaningful level 3 awards to conduct investigations and investigation meetings better and can help with advice and conduct of investigations for, and with, you. They are a Skillsfirst regulated centre delivering the only vocational qualification in the world in investigative interviewing, and a level 3 qualification to investigate.
Found out how Intersol Global how we can work with you to improve the investigation processes in your workplace www.intersolglobal.com.