3 years, 19 days ago

A Story of Values and Trust in Criminal Justice

Link: http://blog.foundin.design/2017/06/a-story-of-values-and-trust-in-criminal.html

London, Summer,  2006
Two consultants, Carl and Nigel, had been asked to look at replacing an IT application shared between the Police and the Crown Prosecution Services (the CPS; government sponsored prosecution lawyers). Initially, they went back to the original user requirements and re-modeled the business processes. They were surprised to find the software seemed to be functioning according to both the requirements and in-line with the processes, yet the software was deemed “useless” by both the Police and The CPS. The Police officers complained that it consumed too much of their time – time that could be spent catching criminals, and the CPS lawyers, found the data in the system incomplete and unreliable, and this led to failed trials through lack of evidence.
So what was the underlying problem and how could it be described?
Drawing on a background of information systems within the transportation and logistics industry, Nigel suggested that a pattern he’d used to understand behaviours of Global Supply Chains might help. This approach had helped simplify seemingly complex dependencies between the many parties in a supply chain and focus attention on the critical business outcomes. This pattern focused on three dimensions of a multi-party information system; Policies, Events, and Content.



Policies are mandates and agreements, including internal policies, legal requirements, commercial contracts and other constraints that govern what is allowed and the manner of execution. They may be internal or external, explicit or implicit.


In the context of information systems, Events would be business-relevant occurrences. They are real-world proceedings that stimulate activity.


Content is the meaningful portion of the documents, conversations, messages, etc. produced and used by all aspects of business activity. Content is the means by which plans, actions, previous references, etc. are used to determine decisions. Content explicitly encompasses a broader spectrum of communication that is classified as “data” in computer-based systems, though any form of business data applies.
Content may include:
  • Information that is a prerequisite for the occurrence of an event.
  • Information that is required, processed and acted on by actions resulting from an event.
  • Information that is spawned from an event occurrence.
Carl and Nigel ran some workshops with Police officers and CPS lawyers where they encouraged them to tell their respective “day-in-the-life’ stories around the events as they unfolded, the policies they were constrained by, and the information (content) involved. What emerged was a much richer understanding of the behaviour of the human aspects that had neither been described in the user requirements nor documented in the business process models. These discussions led to the addition of two other dimensions to their thinking framework; Values and Trust. This semi-structured storytelling technique later became known as the VPEC-T thinking framework.


The Value filter helps in understanding the value of the desired outcomes to both the individual and the business. The value of a system to a business is usually about profit and income, market share and cash flow. Values, however, in VPEC-T extends this to include meeting ethical constraints and other types of goals such as environmental concerns, as well as considering personal values of parties involved as well as employee satisfaction and retention.
Values constitute the objectives, beliefs, and concerns of all parties participating. They may be financial, social, tangible and intangible.


Trust in VPEC-T refers to the degree of trust within the relationship between all parties engaged in a value system. The core elements of trust are; the intimacy of the parties, one party’s credibility in the eyes of another, and the risks involved. These dimensions may change with time and circumstances.


The most significant outcomes of using this approach were:
  • a cost saving to the U.K. taxpayer of over £100m in avoided software re-development  costs, and 
  • a change in the cross-party organisational model.
The root cause was not actually to do with the software; it was all to do with a lack of shared values (empathy) and a poor trust-relationship. The solution was to move CPS staff into offices within Police facilities. They found, by working physically side-by-side, they were able to improve outcomes for both parties significantly; more time out on the street – catching bad guys, and fewer failed trials due to incomplete, or otherwise lacking, evidence.
Nigel and Carl learned that, by applying a thinking (design) pattern from the world of supply chain logistics, it was possible to extend it and use it for criminal justice. Today, VPEC-T applies to many different scenarios in government, industry, and education. Today, if you watch U.K. crime drama, you might notice the presence of a CPS officer working with the cops in the Police station. That came about by focusing on Values, Policies, Events, Content, and Trust.


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