08 August 2006

Intelligence Factor: A Decisive Risk Element...

In this John Keegan book review by Thomas Powers of Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda ; Mr. Powers captures the essence of the decisive risk element of local information:

The real challenge in the war on terror is one we got right in the war against Nazi Germany and failed badly at in the war in Vietnam -- helping the locals do what they want to do on their own. The free French, the partisans in Yugoslavia, the Poles and the Czechs all desperately wanted the United States to win because our enemy was their enemy. In Vietnam, our locals were defeated by their locals, who just wanted us to leave. The war on terror is something of an afterthought in Keegan's book, added because he believes intelligence is likely to be the decisive weapon. He is surely right about that. But victory won't come from big intelligence, the kind Americans are best at -- gathering so much information and acting on it in so timely a manner that the terrorists will be nailed as soon as they step out the door. Winning this contest requires an older kind of intelligence: the kind that grows out of deep knowledge of place, language, culture and people, and then getting the basic question right -- knowing what the locals want to do on their own and putting that first.

Operational Risk Management is about the mitigation of attacks on your assets and eliminating potential hazards in order to be a more resilient foe, or competitor on the corporate battlefield. Intelligence is information. Only information at the right time and from the right source can give you the edge to fend off the latest barrage of share holder law suits, denial of service attack on your corporate web site or the smoldering fire in the janitors closet.

Whether that intelligence (information) is being gathered by sensors detecting smoke, packets on the network, or the late night cleaning crew; you will not have a chance of acting in time without the human element. The human factor is still the last fail safe for determination whether a "False Positive" or "True Negative" is at hand. Human Intelligence is being gathered every hour of every day humans are talking to each other, writing to each other or walking around using other signals to communicate. The eyes and ears of your organization are what will ultimately determine whether you win or lose the risk mitigation battle you are fighting.

Managing risks to your operations requires a network of human intelligence from the front desk to the loading dock. Intelligence is being gathered on every sales call and each customer service call to the 800 number. However, it is not until you act on what you are learning that all of this information is converted to something productive or protective. Look around you. How many sensors and repositories of intelligence are walking around your organization today without anyway or anyone to convert all of that raw information into a mechanism for Operational Risk Management?

The organizations who understand how to capitalize on the collection of organizational intelligence and act on it without hesitation, will be the most resilient operators and the most formidable competitors on the corporate landscape.

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