There are two basic places to find information for your risk assessment: documents and interviews.  Ensuring that you have the right documents and that you efficiently review them will make the process much smoother.  This sounds easy, but is deceptively so.  Wasting time reviewing documents is practically de rigueur.  But it doesn’t have to be if you plan correctly.    

This is the second in our Risk Assessment Top Tips series.  The first one on scoping your risk assessment for success can be found HERE. Like many steps in the risk assessment process, document collection and review has pitfalls that can be avoided.  Following you’ll find top tips to ensure that your review goes well.

Top Tip One: Create a Document Inventory Before You Start Review

Many people dive right into the documents without taking the time to create an inventory sheet.  An inventory is simply an Excel sheet or Word table that lists information such as:

Don’t start reviewing until you’ve set up a system to do it effectively.  If you start reviewing before you start your system, you’ll end up re-reviewing documents, possibly three or four times.

Top Tip Two: Assign each Document a Number

Assign each document a number.  If you’re working with hard copy documents, write the number on the front page.  If you’re using electronic documents and you’re able to, save the documents in your system or SharePoint with the number in the title.  It will help you to find the most critical documents later.

Be sure to add a column to your document inventory table that lists the number of each document so you can access them easily. 

Top Tip Three: Add a Column for Interviewees

Add a column in your Document Inventory to note potential interviewees who should be asked about the document you are reviewing.  This will help you to quickly see which topics relate to which interviewees.  If you have 15, 20, or 30 people to interview, it can be difficult to sort out which documents and topics relate to which person, so doing this work upfront will help when you set out your interview agendas. 

Top Tip Four: Add a Column for Specific Questions

As you review documents, you will likely find yourself with specific questions.  When you have questions, think about who will be able to answer them, and add the question as well as the page of the document to which the question relates.  This again will help you to quickly identify the questions that you need to ask during the interviews. There’s nothing worse than reviewing fifteen documents again and again trying to find that document that included that important piece of information. 

Top Tip Five: For Large Categories of Documents, Review a Sample

If you ask for documents and you end up with thousands of pages, it may be useful to review a sample instead of every page.  Let’s say you ask for investigation data for the last five years.  If you get 300 investigation reports, that may be overwhelming and unhelpful.  When this happens, review a representative sample. 

How does this work in practice?  Perhaps look only at the last year’s investigations in detail, along with the summary reports to the Board on important investigations for the past five years.  Another approach could be to separate investigations related to the risks that you are reviewing so that you get the most pertinent information.  

Top Tip Six: Expect to Find More Documents

When you begin identifying documents, you’ll inevitably find others you didn’t expect.  Always build in time so that you can obtain and review additional documents before you start your interviews.  You never want to interview a person twice if you can avoid it.  Obtaining all of the documents prior to beginning your interviews will help you to ensure the interviews are as in-depth as possible.

Requesting documents is easy.  Putting them together and reviewing them efficiently and intelligently is harder than it sounds.  By using these top tips, you’ll be able to make the process as successful as possible.

Want to make the risk assessment process as easy as possible?  Check out our new online course, Risk Assessments Made Easy!  The course provides step-by-step guidance for completing both multi-subject and single-subject risk assessments with engaging videos.  It also includes 45 templates and tools, including a draft report template, and means for creating the all-important heat map.  Click HERE for more information.