The Hypothesis Work: Strategists’​ Move

It is indispensable – the hypothesis work – in the perception of responsibility. Regardless of whether it is a matter of developing strategies in the professional, sporting or private environment.
It is indispensable – the hypothesis work – in the perception of responsibility. Regardless of whether it is a matter of developing strategies in the professional, sporting or private environment. But how consciously and cleverly do we use this tool? Do we use it as a strategic move? From my experience in dealing with those in positions of responsibility, there is room for improvement.
“Need to know” principle or who has to be informed and how?

We speak of the so-called “need to know” principle. Everyone is told only so much that it is possible to maintain confidentiality and do the work. This principle has its justification especially in connection with sensitive topics. This is an absolute “must” criterion when investigating facts. Or at least it should be. Confidentiality must be ensured at all times.

For us as a team of interdisciplinary experts in internal or external investigations, this approach is standard. So do we expect it from others. At least for those who have experience in this field of working with highly sensitive data. The  new team members will fundamentally be introduced to this principle for the first time on a project. But how do we explain this to our new team colleagues in real life? People’s curiosity is high. The tightrope walk is to increase the efficiency of the investigation without compromising confidentiality. 


Attitude: Information – give it to me!

A recent practical example given to me during my work as an expert in non-compliance and white-collar crime showed me once again the different expectations of the various stakeholders. In particular, the demand for information from team members is in focus. A team is only as strong as its weakest member. In exceptional situations, increased attention should be paid to this fact.

Practical example: passive-aggressively demanding, the colleague announced that she wanted to receive all-encompassing information about the individual lines of thought of the investigation management. Unfiltered. Note: for the first time, the colleague is involved in an investigation; well trained in other fields; high-status awareness; academic attitude; high demands on leadership and attention.

The individual need to want to know everything, to be informed about everything and to be involved everywhere can be understood based on the described personality characteristics. How does the investigation management deal with this claim? How is confidentiality, the “need to know” principle and the integration of colleagues ensured and maintained?

“Knowledge is power. Information without knowledge is a danger.”


Efficiency or confidentiality?

Among other things, the investigation management is responsible for ensuring that the measures derived from the investigation strategy to clarify the facts can be implemented within the team. This also includes the ongoing evaluation of information, hypothesis work and allocation of tasks. Experience has shown that a investigation process is not straightforward, but is re-evaluated with each new piece of information relevant to the case and, if necessary, adjusted. As already explained in detail in the article on sociograms, the picture is completed with small puzzle stones. Information are part of it. 

The new findings must be incorporated into the team and its tasks to clarify the facts within the framework of the “need to know” principle. Any adjustments to the hypotheses must be communicated in such a way that the individual team member can adapt the measures initiated if necessary.

Hypotheses need to be tested (I will go into the peculiarities of hypothesis work in more detail separately – but not today). Not every hypothesis proves to be useful for the clarification of the facts. Therefore, as the person responsible for the investigation, I take the liberty of pursuing a new hypothesis alone for a moment to check whether it is worthwhile adapting already existing hypotheses.

And no, I don’t have to share that train of thought with every single team member. It’s often a short period of a few minutes – a few hours at the most. My claim on me is that I bring in all my experience of the last 25 years, follow my instinct and thereby ensure that the investigation of the facts runs efficiently – while maintaining the confidentiality of information. This method leads to an increase in the efficiency of the overall project in which the focus is set and the subject of hypotheses is nevertheless partially opened up.

“Efficiency through confidentiality and trust.”


In that sense, your investigative

Sonja Stirnimann

PS: We can download, view and request knowledge anywhere. But the trick is to define what we need and want to know. What are our sources? Which do we trust and are useful for the perception of our responsibility?

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