The ability to identify, analyze and interpret the information that serves as the foundation of our loss prevention investigation is a critical aspect of the case development process. An investigation is intended to uncover facts and find answers, and we want those answers to uncover the cause, define the particulars, and produce a result. However, this alone is by no means the only essential aspect of the process. Our results should lead to solutions. Once the facts are determined through the process of investigation, decisions on how to react to those findings must be made. Quite often, the quality and importance of those decisions are determined not simply on the information available, but just as importantly on our ability to interpret, prepare, and present that information in a way that “tells the story.”
In other words, our information has to be more than factual. It must be logical, relevant, and clearly understood by those that will be making such judgments so that the right conclusions are drawn, and the best decisions are made as a result.
This skill set is vital to the development of the investigator, and to the success of our loss prevention investigation. Ultimately, the quality of the investigation—and the investigator—hinges on the ability to effectively communicate what we have done, what we found, what is applicable, what is significant, and how this information can be summarized in the most effective way possible to deliver our message. A well-prepared and well-presented case provides the vehicle and the direction to bring it all together.
Conveying Meaningful Outcomes
Investigations shouldn’t simply produce results; they should promote action. When it comes to our loss prevention investigation, such actions will not only have substantial bearing on the business, but will often impact livelihoods, careers, and personal freedoms as well. The depth of this responsibility requires a commitment to professional standards and a devotion to the principles that guide our professional conduct. This has to be reflected in our attitudes, actions, and behaviors throughout the investigative process. But it must also be conveyed in the presentation of our cases as well:
- We want to communicate all the substantive facts and circumstances relating to the investigation in a way that is clear, concise, and comprehendible.
- We want decision makers and all others reviewing our findings to be convinced of the depth, detail, thoroughness, and impartiality of the investigation.
- We want others to draw the same decisive conclusions that we have reached based on the evidence presented and agree with any recommendations that have been made as a result.
The loss prevention case report represents a permanent record of the investigation. Planning our case presentations should be an integral part of our thought processes from the moment that we begin an investigation and continue through the final outcomes. Managing the process requires preparation and organization, and we must be methodical and meticulous in our approach.
Telling the Story
The way that we present the facts of our case should tell the complete story—we want to logically present the basis for, extent of, and results of the loss prevention investigation so that informed, intelligent decisions will be made accordingly. We need to be complete but concise, documenting the particulars of how the investigation unfolded and how conclusions were drawn based on the facts.
Whatever actions or decisions might be made as a result, we want to demonstrate that our methods were just, our decisions sound, and our judgments grounded. Finding the truth and serving the best interests of the business remain our primary objective, and this should always be reflected in our case presentation as well as our investigative management.
Preparing an effective report can be our greatest challenge or our greatest weapon, depending as much on our mind set as it does with our own capabilities. We must in essence provide a testimony—describing events, people, places, actions, and information in a brief, concise and descriptive manner. Preparation is a key aspect of good reporting, and sound routines and repetition lead to progressively better results.
When used properly, the written word is a very powerful tool. Confidence is reflected in a well-written report. In fact, the style and content of the report itself can often enhance the results of the case. If the report is factual, logical, and complete, our case should be both clear and convincing. We should work to develop a writing style that is descriptive and helps to pull the reader in, allowing them to use the same mindset and the same logic to reach the same conclusions. The writing must be clear, words should be chosen carefully, and the proper use of basic language skills is paramount.
Whenever possible, comprehensive notes should be taken throughout loss prevention investigations with each event and response recorded accurately. Notes should contain all pertinent information, such as dates, times, names, locations, and other available data. Reports should only include information relevant to the issue at hand.
An effective writing technique is the product of hard work, and developing a routine that fits our needs and our style should be established. While each investigation is unique and has different elements that come into play, the methods we use to collect and report investigative information remain relatively consistent. By establishing such routines we encourage the consistency and precision that leads to factual content, greater accuracy, better reports, and better investigations.