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"?

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