Monday, October 29, 2018

Kent's 9 Rules of Analysis [for Fire Protection Professionals]


In the 1940's, Sherman Kent, a Yale professor and father of American analytical intelligence, authored a book entitled, Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy. In his book, written for intelligence analysts, Kent outlines nine rules of analysis. Though written for the intelligence community, these nine rules of analysis can be applied to what fire protection professionals do everyday.

As fire protection professionals we are constantly faced with a barrage of data and information.  This data and information must be analyzed and evaluated to specify and approve life safety features, design fire protection systems, promote and develop prevention programs, and more. How can we ensure that the right information is being analyzed and the best options are being presented? To be great at the art and craft of analyzing and presenting information, we should learn and apply Kent's nine rules of analysis.

9 Rules of Analysis


1. Focus on Policymaker Concerns. Who are the policymakers in your community? What is their primary concern? The "policymaker" can be the client, the commissioners, or other group or individual that will be making the final approval decision and releasing needed funds. Issues and requests will be better received if presented in a manner and time-frame that suits the affected policymaker.  
"Accommodate clients by producing assessments timed to their decision cycle and focused on their learning curve".

2. Avoidance of a Personal Policy Agenda. What is best for the policymaker (client,group, community)? This may directly conflict with the needs of the individual, the department, or the company. 
"Identify and evaluate alternatives...allow the client to recommend and choose."

3. Intellectual Rigor. Information and solutions should be "rigorously evaluated for validity".  
"Judgments are based on evaluated and organized data, substantive expertise, and sound, open-minded postulation of assumptions."

4. Conscious Effort to Avoid Analytic Biases. Review the data, information, and problem with an open mind. Don't get tunnel vision that tries to fit the problem into your 
"Resist the tendency to see what they expect to see in the 

5. Willingness to Consider Other Judgments. Argument and dissent should be encouraged, as long as, the dissenter's judgement is made clear and based on alternative assumptions or different interpretations of information. A good example of this is the model code development process. A group of individuals that gather, share their "judgments", to create the most useful and relevant code or standard. 


6. Systematic Use of Outside Experts. The more we know about new technology, new processes, new structure or building methods, the better we can serve those "policymakers" and our communities. This can be largely accomplished by building the right relationships with experts in other fields, that can provide and interpret the new information. 
"Take account of a wide range of outside opinions...cultivate working relations with outsiders..."

7. Collective Responsibility for Judgment. Collective responsibility is the idea that individuals who are part of of a group (the "collective") are responsible for the groups actions and occurrences by tolerating, ignoring, or harboring them, without being actively engaged in the decision. Being aware of this, fire protection professionals should always speak up, represent, and defend their analysis, to their clients best interest.
"Allow time for coordination and accommodate collective responsibility."

8. Effective Communication of Policy-Support Information and Judgments. A good method to use is The Pyramid Principle developed by Barabara Minto. This is a method of corporate communication that starts with the solution then presents recommendations, and supporting ideas.
"Shorter is usually better, with key points stated quickly... If the tradeoff is between adding length and allowing brevity to cause confusion, provide a carefully measured dose of detail."

9. Candid Admission of Mistakes. If you have made a mistake readily admit it and present solutions for corrections. Master your subject and trade-craft, study mistakes, learn by conducting a critical review of failures.
 "Admission and explanation of analytic errors are likely to increase credibility with policy clients."

These decades-old postulates can serve as a refreshing blueprint for the development, presentation, and analysis of information and solutions to problems. Define the "policymakers" primary concern. Seek intellectual rigor, and strive to never bring personal agenda or bias to the task. Seek advice and test other’s hypotheses. Take responsibility and credit as a group. Hold yourself to the highest standards of professionalism and excellence in your field.  Admit mistakes and be quick to respond to, and correct, them.