Security specialists gravitate towards various disciplines to offer focused expertise and meaningful recommendations appropriate to specific context. Complex problem sets are divided into manageable segments.
Unfortunately, half-baked disjointed efforts may also expose more dangerous seams.
Regardless of discipline – perhaps information security, physical security, individual-personal security, or national security – the fundamental security objective is consistent. We seek to negate, or at least mitigate, undesirable outcomes. We often pursue that overarching goal along three avenues:
- We take stock of ourselves to understand our own vulnerabilities
- We consider those who would threaten us – their identity and abilities
- We then conduct some form of analysis (often via risk management structures that weigh likelihoods and magnitudes of impact regarding some contemplated event) to ultimately organize and prioritize potential outcomes and choices.
Options are evaluated against available resources or other constraints to yield plans and actions. We may decide to ignore a potential risk factor or work to manage it via deliberate expenditure of time and treasure.
This is security in the nutshell.
The Basic Security Objective
Award winning author and businessman Franklin Covey asserted that successful leaders begin with the end in mind. If we apply his charge to our burgeoning security mindset, one might reasonably ponder, what end should we have in mind from a security perspective?
Return for a moment to that basic security objective: “to negate, or at least mitigate, undesirable outcomes.” But clean answers can become elusive when we must articulate specifics. “What-if” scenarios are replete with intangibles that frustrate concise language.
Without rambling, try to list some meaningful accomplishments by referencing what did not occur.
We do not seem to come pre-wired to think in terms of negative outcomes, yet our end goal in security requires just that.
Each day we strive to avoid catastrophe, side-step the close calls, finish a commute without a scratch, or escape the wolf. The end we seek is … well … mundane. Calm. Nothingness. But how does one plan to that? Effective security is all about pursuit of the “non-event.”
Much progressive thought regarding security solutions in high-stress or high-threat environments has come from leaders with military or law enforcement backgrounds.
For example, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Robert Parker and some associates recently penned an outstanding article on the pursuit of non-events in a maritime security environment.
Such thought leadership is invaluable. But for some, it also presumes a level of advanced training or skill that may not fully resonate with those who have not endured the pressurized training regimens that foster such thought.
Where does that leave a concerned citizen without professional security training? Are there straight-forward constructs one can use to mirror the advanced analysis and proven techniques of our brightest professionals?
Two key elements to effective security were identified by VADM Parker and his team. The first has to do with foreseeing rather than simply reacting to threats; the second concerns resiliency – surviving or containing the damage from an incident that has incurred.
We can build upon these ideas via powerful structures that are familiar to most of us.
Consider driving safety. Almost all Americans develop a relatively advanced and deeply ingrained sense of safe driving intuition.
We proactively assess dynamic threats to our safety on the road via valuable experience gained in the daily routines of our travels.
We develop strong habits to avoid accidents (pursue the non-event). We grasp the importance of resiliency and survivability should one occur – which is why we use seatbelts. Surely we can transpose lessons from this familiar world of driving vulnerabilities and road hazards (threats) to a broader security context.
As a young new driver in the early 1980s, the author completed a basic driver’s education course. A simple process was offered to help build sound driving skills.
I remember the acronym to this day and still mentally exercise the process often: I-P-D-A. It stood for identify, predict, decide, and act. Many others should probably be credited for constructing this process, but I have modified the explanatory remarks to my own liking.
Yet the structure is true to the original driver’s education module:
Take stock of what is happening around you via an on-going and heightened sense of awareness; scan the environment and compare it to baselines to find anomalies.
This is the active thinking piece – to use these identified sensory inputs and inventories to make rapid predictions of potential outcomes or paths. Note the resonance in this element with VADM Parker’s idea of foreseeing threats.
Based upon a dynamic set of mental predications, we make choices. This is where mental rehearsals pay large dividends. Have we previously encountered and considered similar sets of inputs? Have we mentally rehearsed alternative choices to logical conclusions? Star athletes envision a race before it happens. Fighter pilots chair fly or simulate a critical mission many times before launch. The quality of time-critical decision making improves significantly with repetitious consideration of similar context.
Actions or execution of our decisions may flow from neurons to appropriate muscle groups, but the more mental or physical rehearsals and reps we complete, the more improvement we gain in speed and accuracy of execution. Split seconds matter in preventing incidents and in the resiliency component if incidents do occur.
In threat situations, flight or fight instincts dominate. Our actions may follow irrational instincts unless we have built up internal trust in other rational decisions through valid preparation.
Numerous process permutations and fine point differences from I-P-D-A have evolved over the years, but the fundamental construct is largely the same. These models stress the power and importance of predictive analysis and preparation.
Many will note the obvious structural parallels of our humble drivers’ education rooted process to more famous constructs such as the O-O-D-A [Observe, Orient, Decide, Act] loop.
This decision making process was distilled from the glamorous and fast paced setting of aerial combat by Air Force Colonel John Boyd, a military strategist and fighter pilot forged in the pre-Vietnam era. The value of Colonel Boyd’s O-O-D-A loop is still the subject of rich debates in business schools and military doctrine today.
There is much value a non-security professional can apply to many specific security settings and challenges by drawing from our lowly drivers education mantra of I-P-D-A. Understanding and pursuing non-events requires reference and comparisons.
- What does the non-event look like?
- What critical information will inform our predictive analysis?
For example, if we seek to respond well to a highly dynamic threat situation such as a local theater shooting incident, our success or failure may start well in advance by understanding how a non-event trip to the theater appears – and not just a casual notion of the obvious, but a more deliberate effort to inventory how the occasion should appear.
We want to recognize critical points of departure as early as possible – even if this only buys us split seconds of advantage over a mostly uninformed and reactive crowd around us.
In our next edition, we will dive into the details of an active theater shooter scenario, armed with our powerful, but simple, laymen’s I-P-D-A construct and a sharpened mind to analyze the security aspects of the context.
We will see the power of more predictive thinking to deliver the slight edge and valuable moments we may need to either grasp a non-event from the plethora of sticky security situations or to enhance our resiliency and survivability.
About the Authors
The Rogers Maryland Group, Inc. is a professional consulting firm that services a small and select confidential clientele by bringing together a cadre of career professionals with notable military and industrial security backgrounds. We couple this professional expertise with insightful business acumen to deliver smarter solutions through innovative thought leadership and strategic risk analysis.
For more information, contact us via Escape the Wolf.