Motivating the Forensic Team

Posted on June 29, 2010


Yup, I know it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with one thing and another, and kinda ran out of inspiration a bit as well. I’ve got a load of half-written posts that weren’t really tickling me, so I hope that this one satisfies your monkey-lust until I can get back into the swing of things.

These are hard times. Monkeytown Constabulary is having to make cuts of 8 squillion Ugandan dollars and tighten up on efficiency across the board. It’s the same throughout the UK – everywhere’s facing redundancies, budgets are being slashed and people are starting to watch those ‘how to eat roadkill’ programmes on BBC3 with more than just morbid curiosity. Mr Cameron hasn’t yet responded to my suggestion of selling off the internal organs of anyone working in the banking sector, but I’ll give him time.

Computer Forensics is an expensive business to run. We need equipment, software, high-end workstations, training, biscuits and all the rest of the paraphernalia, and we’re expected to show results. I’ve already covered my suggestions for how to bring in money, so in this post I’d like to concentrate on how we can become more target-driven, so that our employers can gain maximum value from us.

All too often we get in the rut of what one blogger calls the ‘sausage factory‘ where we just pick up a folder, churn out a good-enough job as quickly as we can, mark it as complete on the database and move on to the next one. It’s sweatshop forensics, but most of us don’t think of ourselves as being in that sort of environment. I’d like to draw on the experiences of the high-pressure world of telesales to add some motivation to our profession – let’s glam it up a bit, get some cut-throat competition going in the office and see if we can survive in this brave new world. Because if I can read the writing on the walls, we’re in for some tough times.

You want a quiet desk job where you can saunter your way through a case, bookmarking your findings with indolent ease while the birdies tweet and the clock ticks slowly down to hometime? Tough titty! From now on you’re going to live on caffiene and adrenaline. You’re going to wake up at 0500 every morning, vomit with anticipatory stress and shit, shower, shave and get dressed as you drive into work. You’ll be the first through the door because you’re out to make an impression – it’s a shark pool in there, and you’ve got to be the shark with the biggest swinging dick – and you’re going to use it as a club to beat the other sharks with, because you’re a WINNER! You’re an alpha fucking male and you were BORN to succeed – if you’re not ahead of the pack then you’re the lame wildebeest that gets taken down by the sharks on the veldt. Every bite you eat tastes of the burned electricity of adrenaline, because you’re on the edge. Failure is not in your keyword list and if it was, you’d sneak it onto your best friend’s list instead because he’d do the same to you, cos this is BUSINESS dammit and that’s the way it works. Weakness is for the dead.

Are you pumped yet? Are you ready to slip out of your sleepy nerdy hammock and sit in the power chair of target-driven forensics? Why so quiet – oh, forgive me – it’s because I RIPPED YOUR THROAT OUT while you were thinking of an answer. I’ve just eaten your heart and gained strength from it because I FUCKING WON! Can I get a hoo-ah?

OK so that’s the pep talk, now for some specifics on how to transfer your office into a high-pressure forensics boiler room. Remember though, it’s not just about churning out cases – it’s also about outdoing your colleagues so that you’re safe when the job cuts come, and grabbing the overtime in a climate of austerity.

  • The Case Bell – when someone finishes a case, they run, whooping, to the front of the office with the folder held high and ring a big brass bell. When the bell rings, everyone else in the office has to jump up and down and sing ‘Simply the Best’. If the person has done well enough compared to the rest of the office, their name then goes on the ‘Winner Board’.
  • Winner Board – people who churn out the most jobs get an entry on the Winners’ Board, but have to fight to hold it. The board has spaces for half the number of people in the office and when someone slips off the board for a week they have to wear the ‘hat of shame’ until they get back on it. Anyone who stays off the board for two weeks loses their entitlement to work overtime until they get back on it.
  • Fobbing-Off Desk – This is a row of phones staffed by brutal, sharp-suited bastards who were fired from financial sales because of sharp practice. They are the Unit’s gatekeepers, and anyone trying to submit a job or check on the progress of a job has to run the gauntlet of these socialised sociopaths before they get further into the office. Their mission is to dissuade people from submitting jobs, but they can also convert a submission into an overtime job, which is where they earn their commission. If someone phones up to check a job’s progress, the F-OD will try to persuade them that they don’t want the job done any more.
  • Ritual humiliation by email: Each Friday, every member of the team has to send the sergeant an update on their progress. This isn’t just a worksheet but should include references to the ‘journey’ that they’re on to become a better case-churning machine, as well as pleas for the management to believe in them and give them a chance to prove themselves. They state their achievements for the week, and set ever-more punishing targets for the next week in an attempt to win favour.
  • ‘Dead Man Walking’ – anyone who gets the lowest weekly figures consistently for a month becomes a ‘dead man walking’ – no one is allowed to speak to them, they’re out of the tea round and their kit can be snaffled by anyone who needs it. Colleagues who want to push them over the edge can leave a wreath or sympathy card on their desk.
  • Court Evader of the Month – as we all know, having to go to court with a job is a huge waste of time. The person who can get out of the most court days gets a special prize, in the form of first refusal of the next 5 days of overtime. Staff are expected to show their loyalty by doing a night in prison for contempt, if that’s what it takes.

OK, so they’re my ideas for incentivizing the forensic workforce. Got any more? Stick em in the comments!