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Operational Research, Workshops and Events

OR Society Criminal Justice SIG Meeting 14-Nov-11

The OR Society’s Criminal Justice Special Interest Group met yesterday at the Home Office in London and we had presentations on five topics from the invited speakers.


Liz Medhurst, BPI Manager at Thames Valley Probation Trust presented a case study describing their Lean Six Sigma (LSS) journey since 2008. The LSS programme started following the training of three staff (including Liz) who were appointed as internal BPI experts and facilitators. Initial projects covered Court work, Pre-sentence Report writing and allocations to Groupwork for Interventions. These projects uncovered recurring “waste” themes of rework and over-processing. Liz explained the major challenge of engaging with senior managers and staff and how to communicate their LSS work effectively. Their LSS programme developed its approach to create an “Intelligent Operations Manual” using Nimbus Control and subsequent projects looking at Lean Offender Management. Overall, the LSS programme has delivered benefits equating to 3.5% of TVPT’s budget, plus significant non-cashable savings.

Kathryn Sloane provided an overview of the MoJ’s “Modelling Landscape” where the aim is to create a set of coherent and consistent models of the CJ system. The “landscape” includes high-level models of demand, detailed workload models, long-term planning models and planning/financial models.  Kathryn took us through a specific example of the volume of defendants being charged and how that model then related to Prisons Projections and Probation Projections. The initiative is now moving into a phase where models can be used more as part of Business As Usual, with more regular updates, monitoring of projections, scenario analysis and sensitivity analysis.

David Carter from Devon and Cornwall Police presented the work he and Jonathan Moizer had done to develop a Police Resourcing Model. This involved a Systems Dynamics Model, based on group model-building. He described four different types of problem that organisations face with a four-box grid based on the work of Pidd and Obeng (Certainty of Outcome vs. Certainty of Process). His Resourcing Model approach required a three-stage approach, moving from a “mess” (using scenario planning), to a “problem” (using Causal mapping) to a “puzzle” (using SD modelling). A key point was the value of involving operational staff in the model-building process.

Andy Murcott, formerly with West Midlands Police, introduced us to a technique called Data Envelope Analysis which he had applied to help review a Six Sigma project. The project had involved some improvement work in an Operational Command Unit (OCU) which had been under-performing. The project had produced a number of SPC charts which showed clear improvements resulting from the interventions. Andy applied DEA to see to what extent these improvements were due to the interventions, by making comparisons with other OCUs across the force where Six Sigma had not been applied. Many other OCUs had also achieved some degree of performance improvement over the same period, so DEA was felt to be a useful technique to separate out the impact of the interventions from other external factors. The analysis showed some improvement could be attributed to the Six Sigma project, but a large part was clearly due to other factors; in other words, performance would have improved without the Six Sigma intervention. A key conclusion to draw is that, unless the work of a Six Sigma project is compared with suitable controls, there is a risk that “improvement” may just be “smoke and mirrors”!

Finally, Mike Marriott from the MoJ OR Group updated us on what had happened since the Practitioner Workshop held at the OR53 Conference. A group at the conference had worked with Mike and two facilitators to identify a range of options for identifying MoJ cost savings that could lead to a targeted £130M. The conference group identified some options to reduce demand for the CJ system as well as ways to improve the efficiency of the existing system. Mike was able to tell us that many of these options were being followed up and/or were already being implemented. For example, the group came up with “sell TV rights to televise Court proceedings”. Mike told us that a recent TV series “The Jury” had hired the Royal Courts of Justice; a good example of revenue generation from the existing estate.

Overall, this was one of the best attended CJ SIG events, with over 40 people present. Thanks go to all the speakers, the Home Office for providing the conference room and to Sue Merchant for organising the day. Details of future CJ SIG events can be found on the OR Society’s website.




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