Wednesday, August 15, 2018

6 Things To Think About While Discussing Requirements With A Decisionmaker (Part 4)

"Hic sunt dracones!"
How can I use the limited amount of time my decisionmakers have to discuss their intelligence requirements to get the maximum return on that investment?  Earlier this summer, I began a series on this precise theme.

I have already written about how to prepare for an intelligence requirements meeting and about how to deal with a virtual intelligence requirements environment.  Last week, I did the first three things to think about when having a requirements meeting with a DM:
1.  Does the DM really want intelligence?2.  What kind of intelligence is the DM looking for?3. What are the DM's assumptions?
Today, I am writing part four of a six part series discussing what intel professionals need to think about when they are actually in the meeting, talking to a decisionmaker about his or her requirements.

4.  What does the DM mean when he/she/they say "x"?

"I'm worried about Europe.  What moves are our competitors likely to make next?"  This is a perfectly reasonable request from a decisionmaker.  In fact, if you are in a competitive intelligence position for a larger corporation, you have likely heard something close to it.  

While reasonable, it is the kind of requirements statement that is filled with dragons for the unwary.  Not the least of these dragons is definitional.   When the DM said "competitors" did he or she mean competitors that reside in Europe or competitors that sell in Europe or both?  And what did he or she mean by "Europe"?  Continental Europe, the EU, western Europe, something else?

Listening carefully for these common words that are actually being used in very specific ways or are, in a particular organization, technical terms is a critical aspect of a successful requirements meeting.  If the intelligence professional has a long history with a particular decisionmaker then these terms of art may be common knowledge.  Even in this case, however, it is worth confirming with the DM that everyone shares this understanding of these kinds of words.

That is why I consider it best practice to memorialize the requirement in writing after the meeting and to include (usually by way of footnote) any terms defined in the meeting.  In addition, if certain terms weren't defined in the meeting but the intel professional feels the need to define them afterwards, I think it makes sense for the intel professional to make their best guess at what the DM meant but then draw specific attention to the intel professional's tentative definition of the term in question and to seek confirmation of that definition with the DM.  

This may sound like a convoluted process, but, as I tell my students, not getting the requirement right is like building a house on the wrong piece of property.  It doesn't matter how beautiful or elegant it is, if you build it on the wrong piece of property you will still have to tear it down and start all over again.  The same holds true for a misunderstood intelligence requirement.  Get the requirement wrong and it doesn't matter how good your answer is - you answered the wrong question!

Next:  #5 What constraints are the DMs willing to put on the requirement?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Call for Papers: Intelligence Community Forum (ICF) - "Intelligence Support for Decision-Makers" (18-20 June 2019, Mercyhurst University)

Brécourt Academic and Mercyhurst University's Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences, in association with Global War Studies, are pleased to announce the first annual Intelligence Community Forum (ICF). 

An international conference, ICF 2019 will bring together intelligence community professionals from a wide array of disciplines, including academia, government, business, and students. Paper proposals dealing with one or more of the following topics are welcome, and while "Intelligence Support for Decision-Makers" is the general focus, papers and panels covering other related topics or taking thematic approaches are equally encouraged:
National Intelligence / Business Intelligence / Cyberwarfare / Cyber Security
Military Intelligence / Naval/Maritime Intelligence / Indicators and Warnings
Intelligence and Alliance Politics / Inter-Agency Cooperation / Science & Technology Multi-National Intelligence Sharing / Intelligence and Security Studies History of Intelligence / Intelligence and Diplomacy / Industrial Mobilization/ Intelligence Methods and Data Analysis / Intelligence and Assymetric Warfare/Problems of Intelligence Analysis in Early Post-War Planning/Intelligence and Peacekeeping/Peacemaking / NGOs
Paper proposals must be submitted by 15 January 2019 and must include a brief (200 words or less) one-paragraph abstract and a one-page curriculum vitae. Panel proposals are welcome and should include a brief description of the panel's theme.

Additional conference details and registration information will be available soon at:
https://mercyhurst.edu/icf2019

Submissions and inquiries should be addressed to:
Sharon von Maier
E: brecourtacademicadm@gmail.com
T: 202 875 1436 (US number)

or, at Mercyhurst:
Dr. Duncan McGill
E: dmcgill@mercyhurst.edu
T: 814-824-2458

The conference proceedings will be published by Brécourt Academic.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

6 Things To Think About While Discussing Requirements With A Decisionmaker (Part 3)

"I challenge your assumptions, sir!"
How can I use the limited amount of time my decisionmakers have to discuss their intelligence requirements to get the maximum return on that investment?  Earlier this summer, I began a series on this precise theme.

I have already written about how to prepare for an intelligence requirements meeting and about how to deal with a virtual intelligence requirements environment.  Today, I am writing part three of a six part series discussing what intel professionals need to think about when they are actually in the meeting, talking to a decisionmaker about his or her requirements.

3. What are the DM's assumptions?

There are three kinds of assumptions intelligence professionals need to watch for in their DMs when discussing requirements:
  • About the requirement
  • About the answer to the requirement
  • About the intel team
Consider this requirement:  "Will the Chinese provide the equipment for the expansion of mobile cellphone services into rural Ghana?"  The DM is clearly assuming that there is going to be an expansion of cellphone services.  That doesn't make it a bad requirement but analysts should start by checking this assumption.  

Note also that the DM did not frame the question as "Who is going to provide the equipment...".  Rather, he or she highlighted the potential role of the Chinese.  This kind of framing suggests that the DM thinks he or she already knows the answer to the requirement but just wants a "double check".  Other interpretations are possible, of course, but it is worth noting if only so the intelligence professionals working the issue don't approach the problem with blinders on.

Finally, it is also important to think about the assumptions the DM has about the team working on the requirement.  What does the DM see when he or she looks out at our team?  Are we all young and eager?  Old and grizzled?  Does our reputation - good or bad - precede us?  Finally, is the DM asking the "real" requirement or just what he or she thinks the team can handle?  Not getting at the real questions the DM needs answered is a recipe for failure or, at least, the perception of failure, which is probably worse..

Next Week:  #4 What does the DM mean when he/she/they say "x"?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

6 Things To Think About While Discussing Requirements With A Decisionmaker (Part 2)

"And what kind of intelligence would the gentleman prefer today?"
How can I use the limited amount of time my decisionmakers have to discuss their intelligence requirements to get the maximum return on that investment?  Earlier this summer, I began a series on this precise theme.

I have already written about how to prepare for an intelligence requirements meeting and about how to deal with a virtual intelligence requirements environment.  Today, I am writing part two of a six part series discussing what intel professionals need to think about when they are actually in the meeting, talking to a decisionmaker about his or her requirements.

2.  What kind of intelligence is the DM looking for?

There are two broad (and informal) categories of intelligence - descriptive and estimative.  Descriptive intelligence is about explaining something that is relevant to the decision at hand.  Estimative intelligence is about what that "something" is likely to do next.  It is the difference between "Who is the president of Burkina Faso now?" and "Who is the next president of Burkina Faso likely to be?"

Estimative intelligence is obviously more valuable than descriptive intelligence.  Estimative intelligence allows the DM and his or her operational staff to plan for the future, to be proactive instead of reactive.  Surprisingly, though, DMs often forget to ask for estimates regarding issues they think will be relevant to their decisions.  It is worth the intelligence professionals time, therefore, to look for places where an estimate might be useful and suggest it as an additional requirement.

While I am never one to look for more work, the truth is that descriptive intelligence is becoming easier and easier to find.  The real value in having dedicated intel staff is in that staff's ability to make estimates.  If all you do is what computers do well (IE describe) then you run the risk of being downsized or eliminated the next time there is a budget crunch.

Tomorrow:  #3 What are the DM's assumptions?

Monday, August 6, 2018

6 Things To Think About While Discussing Requirements With A Decisionmaker

An intel professional successfully gets everything he needs from a
DM in a requirements briefing.  Guess which one is the unicorn...
How can I use the limited amount of time my decisionmakers have to discuss their intelligence requirements to get the maximum return on that investment?  Earlier this summer, I began a series on this precise theme.

I have already written about how to prepare for an intelligence requirements meeting and about how to deal with a virtual intelligence requirements environment.  Today, I am writing part one of a six part series discussing what intel professionals need to think about when they are actually in the meeting, talking to a decisionmaker about his or her requirements.

1.  Does the DM really want intelligence?

It goes without saying that an organization's mission is going to drive its intel requirements.  Whether the goal is to launch a new product line or take the next hill, decisionmakers need intel to help them think through the problem.

Unfortunately, DMs often conflate operational concerns ("What are we going to do?" kinds of questions) with intel concerns ("What is the other guy going to do?" kinds of questions).  This is particularly true in a business environment where intelligence as a distinct function of business is a relatively new concept.

Good intelligence requirements are typically about something which is important to an organization's success or failure but which is also outside that organization's control.  Good intelligence requirements are, in short, about the "other guy" - the enemy, the competitor, the criminal - or, at least, about the external environment.

Intelligence professionals need to be able to extract intelligence requirements from this broader conversation, play them back to the DM to confirm that both parties understand what needs to be done before they go to work.

Tomorrow:  #2 What kind of intelligence is the DM looking for?