Coincidentally, I encountered the software programme, Microsoft Visio, at around the time I was introduced to a business consultant who specialised in ‘lean management’ and the examination of business processes. This was when I held responsibility for Probation’s work in the criminal courts. In this context, Courts are interesting in that their responsibility is primarily for ‘due process’ rather than for sentencing outcomes. (Judicial independence claimed by judges and magistrates is central to the British system. There is a debate to have about this about which I will write more later.
What tends to happen with probation work in courts is that the business processes depend on an ‘oral tradition’. The necessary know-how is often held by an experienced member(s) of the probation court team – this can often be an administrator – and this can be bewildering for new or inexperienced staff. (I recall being completely mystified as a student by what was going on in the magistrates court. Probation staff seemed to sit around behaving like clerks, taking notes about events that the Courts were already recording in exhaustive detail. There was also a bit of a culture whereby the court probation officer identified more with the courts than with their own probation service and drew status from that identification, and from holding to themselves the know-how so that others were kept in a junior role.) In such situations it is easy for things to go wrong if a key member of staff were sick or left. It is also common for historic practice to become fossilised and unresponsive to a changing context.