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Short Communications - Forensic Science Communications - January 2006

Short Communications - Forensic Science Communications - January 2006

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January 2006 - Volume 8 - Number 1

Short Communications

Leadership and Management Training for Forensic Laboratory Directors and Managers

Anja Einseln
Training Officer
Quality Assurance and Training Unit
FBI Laboratory
Quantico, Virginia

The FBI Laboratory Division provides the public crime laboratory community with an annual opportunity to receive high-level leadership and management training via the annual Crime Laboratory Development Symposium. In 2002 the FBI Laboratory and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) agreed that ASCLD would continue with an annual forensic community meeting and provide additional resources via vendors and individualized workshops and that the FBI Laboratory would pursue a partnership with an executive education provider. The following details the history of these FBI Laboratory partnerships.

The FBI Laboratory began its first collaboration with a business school in September 2002, partnering with the Olin School of Business, Washington University in St. Louis. The program format was similar to previous years, with a series of plenary and workshop sessions provided for attendees to select. A combination of Olin School of Business faculty and guest speakers provided a range of topics from which managers could choose. The program was held at Washington University's Knight Center, the executive education center located on campus. The program was well received by the forensic community.

In September 2003 the FBI Laboratory formed a partnership with the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. The symposium was held at a hotel, and a combination of university faculty and outside speakers again served as presenters. An important element incorporated into the 2003 program was a recommendation that the presenters visit a crime laboratory. It was very clear to the attendees which presenters had taken the time to visit a crime laboratory and learn about their audience and which had not. The FBI Laboratory gathered valuable information to evaluate the program; this information would provide a touchstone for future programming decisions.

In 2004 I became responsible for the annual symposium and took the opportunity to extensively review and reflect on the feedback from the 2002 and 2003 programs in preparation for the 32nd symposium. In March 2004 two senior managers and I traveled to five executive education business schools to receive site briefings from potential partners. By performing this frontline analysis, we were accomplishing multiple goals: market analysis to meet our procurement requirements, firsthand evaluation of the multiple types of management programs available, and an opportunity for informal conversations with leaders in the field of management and leadership.

Some may question the logic of specifically selecting an executive education provider instead of broadening the focus to include all university business schools. The focus of a university-based executive education program is meeting the needs of managers and leaders who already have years of experience and real-world lessons as part of their knowledge base. In order to provide a relevant program for an already largely diverse population, the FBI Laboratory had to recognize and incorporate the needs of this community. To engage with faculty who may have a background working only with master's candidates who have just completed their undergraduate degrees would have proven disappointing for both the attendees and the faculty. To take the knowledge gained in a university environment and temper it with the real world takes sharp skill and creative thinking by the faculty. Selecting executive education faculty members who wield this skill set in their daily operations would ensure a solid program for audience members who need and deserve to learn from one another. A business school whose main focus is the more traditional master's of business administration may have several faculty members who are able to meet this need, but would this same school be able to provide a four-day program for an audience of 250 crime laboratory managers and leaders? I consider it essential to pursue a partnership with an executive education leader (the school) that possesses the skills and experience to meet this specific challenge as part of its overall organizational mission, as well as the infrastructure and faculty to successfully accomplish this highly visible program.

As part of the 2004 proposal review, we met with the following schools: the Darden School of Management, University of Virginia; the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University; Harvard Business School; the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota; and the Olin School of Business, Washington University in St. Louis. Each half-day briefing provided us an opportunity to receive an oral proposal from the executive education program staff, meet with faculty, see the facilities where the program would be held, ensure that the lodging location and the academic facility could support the demanding needs of a 250-attendee program, and determine if the transportation and location would present logistical difficulties. Most important, this on-site briefing process provided a forum for an open dialog between the school and the FBI Laboratory.

Each discussion began with formalities and then immediately grew into intensive questions and conversations about the community and the needs of such a diverse group. As part of this dialog, faculty members from each school raised the idea of stakeholders and competition. We had to help them understand that many public crime laboratories provide their services at little or no charge, which struck them as unimaginable. Why would a forensic laboratory function without financial reward? How do we define our benefit for providing this service to the criminal justice system? Is there competition for forensic work? Why would a police department select one laboratory over another?

Defining exactly who the stakeholders are for the forensic community seemed to be the essential concept for many of the faculty to visualize. Additionally, the concept of having customers and framing the needs of those customers created more conversations. For some crime laboratories, the stakeholder may be the crime victim. For others, it could be the judicial system. Others may consider law enforcement their stakeholder. Is there one correct answer? Most likely not. This discovery process was essential for the faculty to understand the management environment of the audience, and we felt that a solid partnership could be formed once this conversation occurred.

The 32nd Annual Crime Laboratory Development Symposium took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, from August 30 to September 2, 2004. The theme of the symposium, Improving Crime Laboratory Efficiency, was woven into the various keynote, plenary, and workshop sessions provided, and each of the faculty had an opportunity to focus on management principles with the knowledge of what efficiency means to the forensic community. The reviews from this program were the highest since the FBI Laboratory started its partnership with executive education providers. This can be attributed to several factors: ensuring that each faculty member visited and interviewed managers from state and local crime laboratories, becoming deeply involved in the planning of the entire symposium, recognizing opportunities to address negative feedback from previous programs, and actively seeking opportunities to succeed.

Planning for the 33rd Annual Crime Laboratory Symposium began almost as soon as the 32nd symposium ended. The theme, defined with input from both FBI Laboratory managers and 32nd symposium attendees, became Preparing Future Leaders. Again I reached out to the executive education community for preliminary interest and received responses from five schools. The universities that provided proposals were the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University; the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, in partnership with the Georgia Tech College of Management; the Center for Executive Education, University of Tennessee at Knoxville; and the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame. As in 2004, the process of receiving proposals from each of the universities provided an open communication of ideas and an opportunity to see how each school planned to address a critical topic in management. The FBI Laboratory chose to partner with the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, for the 2005 program. Working closely with the staff and faculty of Ross proved to be a critically important investment of time and energy, and as a result, the program received glowing academic reviews from the forensic community.

Planning for the 34th Annual Crime Laboratory Symposium began in July 2005 with the formulation of the symposium topic, Organizational Communication. This theme seemed to thread its way through many symposium conversations, either as a direct issue or as an underlying key element of a problem or concern within the community. Organizational communication takes many forms, including formal written policy and procedures; internal memos and communications; the ability to articulate verbally or in writing justification for funding or personnel resources; the formal or informal tone and organizational culture leaders and supervisors create within a laboratory or section; informal networking; grapevine communication; formal and informal announcements from senior management; communication from the employees to their managers; and communication from the laboratory to the community it serves.

As in previous years, I reached out to the executive education community and received responses of interest from five schools: the Georgia Tech College of Management in partnership with the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota; the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; the McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin; Carnegie Mellon University; and the University of Washington at Seattle Business School. In October 2005 we selected the partnership of Georgia Tech and Carlson for the 34th Annual Crime Laboratory Development Symposium. Planning meetings are taking place for this program, again stressing the importance of ensuring that faculty members are provided an opportunity to immerse themselves in the issues and concerns of the forensic community.

The FBI Laboratory will be scheduling the 2006 symposium in May in order to provide a six-month window between the symposium and the ASCLD meeting. Through feedback from the community during the last two application processes, I have learned that many managers were being asked to choose either the ASCLD meeting or the FBI program. By rescheduling the FBI program, we hope that more of the community will be able to attend both of these important programs.

Additionally, I have been asked to serve on the Training and Education Committee of ASCLD, and I see it as my responsibility to ensure that there is some continuity between the ASCLD and FBI programs. As planning and program development for the FBI program move forward, I am requesting the involvement of my fellow ASCLD committee members, with the forethought of using this same planning process to prepare for the next ASCLD meeting. This weaving together of the two programs is important for the community and the success of the programs. The FBI program will continue to focus more on management and leadership training, whereas the ASCLD meeting should be seen as an opportunity to identify and address the specific needs of the forensic community. As this process moves forward in the years to come, it is my sincere hope that the two programs will continue to meet the needs of this very hardworking and dedicated community.

I welcome your questions and comments. I can be reached at anja.einseln@ic.fbi.gov.