There’s a term in business management and software development called the “bus factor.”  It’s a morbid way of referencing a critical component of any well-designed process:

How many people would have to be hit by a bus before it stalls or falls apart because there aren’t enough people who know how to push it forward?

It seems absurd to plan for someone being hit by a bus – but that’s not the point.  Unfortunately, team members are sometimes unexpectedly removed from a project.  While it can be sometimes due to good circumstances such as a promotion, it’s often under bad circumstances, such as being fired, a sudden illness or injury, or a death in the family.  Referencing an uncommon event such as being hit by a bus is a way to avoid having to discuss planning for unfortunate events that lead to team members being at work one day and suddenly gone the next.

When handling government agency investigations, the bus factor is important.  If a person leading a case is suddenly unavailable, evidence is evaporating from memories and justice is being left unserved while other team members work to get up to speed on that person’s cases.

Cross-training is a key component to lowering your team’s “bus factor.”  If the knowledge of specific investigative processes is held only by one or two individuals, a single event could put your team on the sidelines while someone races to learn how to complete them.  If knowledge is shared across the team, it’s a valuable safety net – even if ‘back-up’ team members rarely use those skills because they’re less efficient at them than the go-to experts on the team.

The benefits of shared knowledge is one of the reasons that a strong, consistent process is so important for investigative teams.  If all team members follow the same investigative process, the need for cross-training is reduced.  Because processes are shared, team members should be able to get up to speed quickly when they take over other team members’ cases.  They’ll know (based on the current status of the case) what steps have and haven’t been taken.  They’ll know where case notes are stored.  They’ll also know what external parties are expecting information from them, and which ones owe them evidence, testimony, or other information.

Cross-training also has the beneficial side effect of lowering stress levels.  When people do need to be out of the office unexpectedly, it’s often because of a stressful event that has happened in their lives.  Knowing that someone is able to take over their duties at work and follow through on open cases allows them to focus on getting through whatever personal curveballs life may have thrown their way without feeling like anyone is being let down by their absence.

Does your team have strong cross-training in place?  Can you support each of your team members through a tough challenge in their lives by quickly shifting their work duties in their absence?  And most importantly, will you be able to accomplish the mission of your office if one or two key players are unexpectedly not able to come back to work?

To learn how CMTS can help your investigative agency close cases more efficiently and consistently, call us at 855-636-5361 or email us at