Flattery will get you everywhere

I was poking around my blog stats recently and found a link to this site from 4knowledge which is a South African company which conducts training on intelligence issues.  Allow me to quote the all wise Ms. Duvenage.

I just love Travels with Shiloh – cynical,tongue-in-the-cheek and in-your-face realism about intel stuff, events and manipulations.

Ms. Duvenage, I believe I love you (oh, and any chance you can open comments on your blog?).

Ok, enough narcassistic preening.  Even though I began perusing through the blog in hopes of finding more complementary things about me in it, there are a lot of really good ideas bouncing around there worthy of your time.

Case in point:  This post about the question of ‘professionalizing’ the analytical community.

[we’re] still in the awareness-building phase. There is little sharing…and people are either just too lazy, disinterested or restricted by operational security organisational culture to contribute…Interest in belonging to professional organisations is also minimal. We only have 5 members of the International Association for Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA) in SA. Why so little interest? The same reasons as above apply, plus people do not see their jobs as careers. Before we can even think about a professional organisation for organisational or South African or African Intelligence Analysts, there should be a shared vision built on passion for what we do.

I get both hopeful and discouraged reading stuff like this.  Hopeful because when I look around I realize we’re not as far behind everyone else as I sometimes fear and discouraged because we’ve got so far to go and there aren’t any trailblazers we can follow.

So, regarding her post specifically.  I would argue that looking to the FBI specifically or the (U.S.) national level intelligence community generally might not be a good example for trying to professionalize other (smaller, less ‘networked’) agencies.  It seems however, like we’ve got two choices of how to go (you will note the influence my studies in Soviet political theory have upon me here):

  1. The Menshevik approach:  Appeal to the broadest possible audience.  The terms ‘Analyst’ or ‘intelligence professional’ will be used in their most general sense in order to swell your ranks in the hopes that numbers lead to influence.  Of course, the drawback is that any loyalty you garner may be broad but shallow.  Further, because you’ve cast your net so wide, it’s difficult to discuss anything in any detail.  You’re constantly spending your time trying to get everyone to understand the basics of your field and so can never get into advanced or detailed issues because you’ll lose your constituancy.
  2. The Bolshevik approach:  Forget the masses, they’re “lazy, disinterested or restricted by operational security organisational culture” and won’t do anything to advance your agenda.  Instead, focus your attention of identifying people who will act as a vanguard of the proletariat and drag history kicking and screaming into the next stage.  If you’d like a metaphor a little less Marxist-Lenninist, think of Kevin Costner in ‘Field of Dreams’ (which I haven’t seen, btw).  If you build it, they will come.  This is the sort of ‘judo analysis’ I’ve discussed before when talking about organizational change only on a broader front.  It’s certainly frought with more danger than the other approach but the payoff is greater.

I’d argue IALEIA is an example of the first approach.  What is it, really?  Read their ‘About Us‘ section and I defy you to tell me anything about it an hour later. What does it really stand for or against? Does it advocate for anything or is does it just exist so people can look for new job opportunites and go cool places for conferences (and believe me, I’m totally jealous about those conferences and would go in a second)?  If that’s what the organization is about, that’s cool but you shouldn’t really expect to generate much passion or interest in the organization.  It possesses the worst characteristics of new and old organizations, few resources and capabilities, and a conservative ‘don’t rock the boat’ agenda.

It needs to carve out a niche and it’s not going to do that by being a tool of governmental glacial change (or worse) not having a position on anything.  IALEIA needs to develop some positions and then push for them.  If that causes people to leave the organization, so be it.  What are they doing for you now, anyway?

If you want to know why IALEIA membership constitues a fraction of the potential membership (and more importantly, the active membership is probably even much smaller) ask yourself, why should analysts need to be members?  What would drive them to say to themselves ‘Yes!  I want to be a part of that.’  There are problems with analysts not seeing their jobs as careers but a distant professional organization isn’t going to change that.  Better to identify the people who already see their vocation as a profession (or better yet, a calling) and recruit them.


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