One Friday afternoon in September, 15 participants from a broad selection of Europe’s forensic institutes are exhausted but happy. They have just completed an intense five-day course unlike any other and have presented their findings to the group. Üllar Lanno, Director of the Estonian Forensic Science Institute and Chairman of ENFSI, listens to his peers and is pleased. “This is an indispensable course for every forensic organization. Others should send their brightest and their best.”
Sitting next to him, Carlos Farinha, Director of the National Forensic Institute of Portugal, concurs. “This was a very useful and educational course that my organization will greatly benefit from. More leaders in the forensic arena should follow it.” It is a sentiment that is echoed around the room: this unique programme could help the forensic community tackle a number of major challenges.
Development of the programme began two years ago after the NFI had gone through a process of deep transformation. “Our clients were becoming more demanding and public scrutiny was increasing. We realised that if we were to remain effective, efficient and trustworthy, our governance rather than our science had to evolve. And it did, thereby changing the culture and functioning of the organisation,” says Tjark Tjin-a-Tsoi, NFI’s CEO and chair designate of ENFSI.
Working closely with ENFSI, who got the European Union to financially support the programme, NFI built a programme around key issues facing forensic organisations. These included industry trends, personal leadership, efficiency though Lean Six Sigma, innovation and stakeholder management, as well as new business models and service level agreements. The content was delivered by NFI experts and external consultants, and the programme itself was led by a specialised facilitator who used insights from philosophy to stimulate creativity and critical thought.
Practice and theory
The end result was a programme that married thought leadership and best practices from forensic organisations and beyond. “The way the programme combined theory and practice, both of the NFI and fellow participants, was particularly relevant to me,” reflects Dominique Saint- Dizier, Head of the Scientific Department in the National Police Forensic Science Institute in France. The programme was also designed to be experiential and generative. Participants contributed their experiences to lively debates and applied learnings to their own organisation. By working together in an atmosphere of trust and respect, the individual participants soon became a learning community.
Sean McDermott, Director of Operations at the Forensics Science Laboratory in Ireland, said that this finally gave him time to reflect. “We get caught up in our day-to-day work and forget there are better models and paths. Now, I learnt about best practices from the private sector and got to think about the value of leadership”. Gunnar Tasa, who heads the DNA Department of the Estonian Forensic Science Institute, says he learnt the importance of customer expectations. ”Before the programme I had begun preparing a training for police and prosecutors, but instead of just telling them what to do, I will now first ask them what they need.”
The programme also showed that forensic organisations have similar challenges, irrespective of geographic location or stage of development. Participants recognised the importance of cost leadership, communication and service innovation that Roger King, Operations Director Key Forensic Services, England, emphasised in his final presentation. And they agreed with the need to translate a vision into clear goals and effective processes, which Dr. Thomas Andermann, Head of Subdivision Physics and Chemistry at Forensic Science Institute of the German Federal Criminal Police Office touched upon.
The alumni of the first programme have now returned to their own organisations to apply what they have learnt. George Khizanishvili, Director of the National Forensic Bureau of Georgia, captures the value and enthusiasm of the week as he says: “I am eagerly awaiting the next Forensic Governance course, so I can send more people from my organization.” He won’t have to wait too long, as NFI is planning to run the second Forensic Governance programme in June 2014.