Intelligence Analysis has a set of rules – rules that will guide your skills, ability rapport and ability to make a difference in the world of Intelligence and to your organisation. While each of us will embark upon our own intelligence journey, living by these 10 Intelligence Analysis Commandments will give you a compass to be the best intelligence professional and guide you to success. I promise!Download PDF of Analyst Commandments Here
1. Ask Questions.
If you don’t know something ask! I’m sure you’ve all heard the old saying ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question’, and honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Nothing makes you look worse than guessing, or assuming something when the information is available. This for me is the golden rule of Intelligence – and it applies at every stage of the intelligence cycle, and throughout any intelligence professional’s career.
2. Prioritise Your Efforts.
Intelligence is about prioritisation. It’s about balancing what you could be doing with what you should be doing. Think about it, at any one point in time an Intelligence analyst will have competing Intelligence requirements from multiple customers, be balancing collection assets analysing information, and providing updates while answering emails and ad hoc tasks. There’s never enough hours in the day. Your job is to prioritise, and F.O.C.U.S. that is, Follow One Course Until Successful.
3. Fight for Information.
The true value of an intelligence analyst is measured in their ability to fine, source and ‘fight for information’. I can’t tell you amount of time I’ve had an analyst tell me ‘oh, I’ve sent an email but I haven’t heard anything back’ – NOT GOOD ENOUGH! If it means picking up the phone, getting off your arse or arranging a coffee – do it! The best analysts seek and find information; they don’t wait for it to come to them.
4. Leverage Experience.
Use the knowledge and experience of others. As an intelligence analyst you don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know where to get information, and who to talk to. When I was deployed to the Middle East, I needed to research a particular trigger mechanism for a low-metal content Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs), so I went to the Explosive Ordinance Technicians, brought them a coffee and sat with them for 30 minutes while they told me everything I needed to know. When you’re considering what information means use the subject matter experts and their experience to develop your understanding and inform your assessments.
5. Done is Better than Perfect.
I’ve written about the 80% solution before, and reiterated the importance of ‘timely and accurate’ intelligence. Heed this advice, remember that something is better than nothing. While this doesn’t give you permission to pay off your effort, or cut short your research, what is important is timelines! If you’re working to a deadline, get something to the customer by the due date regardless don’t leave them waiting. Done is better than perfect.
6. Make a call.
I’ve seen it time and time again, Intelligence Analysts afraid to actually make a call. They’ve got all the information, but they’re scared of making an assessment because they don’t want to be wrong, or fearful of having a different opinion to someone else! Get over it! Analysts are paid to analyse and make assessments – the outcome of every conversation, email or intelligence brief should be your best assessment based on the information you have at hand.
7. Back yourself.
This goes hand in hand with the commandment above. If you’ve done your analysis correctly, if you’ve looked at the information objectively, and you’ve made an assessment – F *&^#ing Own it! Nothing crushes your professional credibility worse than an analyst who ‘isn’t sure’ or who can’t back their assessment in the face of scrutiny. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change your mind in light of more information, but if you’ve done your job correctly – don’t get bullied from sticking to your guns!
8. Never Make Stuff Up.
This should be considered as one of the Intelligence Analysts Seven Deadly Sins – Never, EVER make s*#^ up! Not only does this create false and misleading intelligence – it ruins your credibility in the eyes of your customers and it could legitimately put lives in danger, the lives of people who depend on your intelligence. It’s alright if you don’t know something, nobody knows everything. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I’m not sure, but I’ll find out and get back to’, but the worst thing an intelligence analyst can ever do it make stuff up.
9. Build Your Network.
Intelligence is as much about whom you know as what you know. Now, this might come as a bit of a shock, but I’ve noticed over the year’s intelligence analysts tend to be a little introverted. Typically they enjoy research, reading, prefer to work alone (or in small teams), and aren’t always the most social person in the room. I get that, but remember, good intelligence analysts know how and where to find information they need, when they need it. This typically means knowing people in similar or supporting roles, and turning to people who might be in a position to help. Building you network is crucial for intelligence analysts because in the real world – this is how information sharing is done, through professional relationships.
10. Seek Feedback.
Last, but certainly not least, Intelligence Analysts should seek feedback. Whether it’s an assessment, and understanding of a situation, during the direction phase or with an assumption – seeking feedback improves the quality of your intelligence, it allows a deeper level of engagement with our intelligence customers, and it ensures we’re providing what the customer wants! Feedback lets us know whether we’re doing the right thing, and if we’re on the right path. There’s no point operating in a vacuum and developing an intelligence product and completing the intelligence cycle only to find you’ve missed the mark – seek feedback early, regularly and often.
If you haven’t already, Download a copy of the 10 Intelligence Analyst Commandments here, and check out some of our other articles to become a better Intelligence Analyst;
- Four Simple Analytical Techniques You Can Start Using Today
- The Three Skills Every Successful Intelligence Analyst Needs To Master
- Intelligence Checklists: How to be prepared for any contingency
Did I miss something? Let us know what you think of the Commandments and which ONE THING do you think is more important, or makes a better analyst than all the rest – comment in the box below or email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org, I reply to all emails personally. Until next time, think smart.