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Concept fans are a pseudo-form of root cause analysis (RCA), and can perhaps be more appropriately viewed as a means of organizing the outputs of other RCA techniques. The concept fan technique can be used as a simple method of organizing the output of brainstorming activities, or in a more structured way to guide the development of thinking about a problem or a goal.

One way this technique can be used is as an effective means of examining the risks that surround a strategic objective or goal. Once the goal has been defined (using whatever strategic or RCA planning process makes sense for the organization), it is a straightforward matter of first identifying the potential sources of risk that could impact it, and then following these sources down to the specific risks that would arise from them.

In a law enforcement context, an agency may develop a strategic goal of reducing the level of reported property crime within its jurisdiction by 5 percent within one year. It would then need to consider what types of risks could impact its ability to achieve that goal. The agency may identify the following general sources of risks that might have an influence on its ability to be successful:

♦ Financial risk

♦ Human resources (HR) risk

♦ Information or data risk

♦ External influence (El) (environmental) risk

At this point it is sufficient to simply identify these high-level sources of risk. The next step would then take each of these strategic sources of risk, and break them down even further into the specific risks and opportunities that would affect their objective for practical purposes. This might result in a list that looks like the one shown in Exhibit 21.10.

Exhibit 21.10 Concept Fan Example Table

Strategic Source

Specific Source of Risk or Opportunity

Financial risk

Insufficient funds to pay for extra enforcement and prevention


Inability to move funds from other programs to support extra enforcement or prevention activities Processes in place to deal with fine-based revenue Freedom to reallocate funding within defined streams to support specific programs

Human resources risk

Insufficient flexibility in shift schedule to surge extra resources into higher-crime/higher-opportunity areas Not enough resources (total) to support specific crime reduction initiatives

Contract with local Police Association allows for reallocation of resources at the request of the agency

Information or data risk

No or limited access to crime metadata to support effective targeting of neighborhoods or people Inaccurate data available to planning staff Specific crime data is able to be plotted geographically to identify localized crime hot spots

External influence risk

Limited public support for certain crime prevention techniques (such as stop and frisk)

Greater public support for targeted, community-based crime reduction/prevention techniques

Concept Fan Example

Exhibit 21.11 Concept Fan Example

By recognizing not only the risks but also the opportunities (which could be identified from the Lise of techniques such as force field analysis or influence diagrams), an agency would be able to better understand not only where its potential risks could come from, but also where there may be opportunities for leveraging existing strengths. Putting these elements together, the whole concept fan approach is shown in Exhibit 21.11.

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