Planning for Research Success — Phase VII

This is generally the final step in an organized plan for the research process. Many of our previous steps are found in earlier postings. We will post fill-in missing steps in coming weeks.

The seventh step in the planning process is to draft and finalize the product. After you have vetted and validated your sources and created a draft product, it should be sent to someone knowledgeable for review.

For the review process you should also submit pertinent supplemental documents. The reviewer should re-check the draft product to ensure that it meets legal and OPSEC requirements and that the product fits the request. If the response is more tactical and timely in manner, such as a quick e-mail in response to a request for information involving force protection down range, it is still recommended to at least cc a person/people that theoretically may have inputs on the issue so they can comment, if needed. It is also ideal to provide a feedback mechanism to the requestor regarding the product.

Ensure the finished product includes a “Fair Use” statement and any additional specific legal guidance.

A production overview is needed since production is arguably the second most important part of the intelligence cycle after collection. Production is the point at which information is converted into an actionable format for delivery to a customer.  It completes the intelligence cycle in which we were tasked, refined the requirement, collected or acquired information, tracked it/analyzed it, and converted it into a product deliverable that will be acted upon.  Now, presumably, decisions will be made, actions will be taken, forces will be positioned, policy will be formulated, etc.  In effect, the pointy end of the spear now can go into action based on the information provided.

Always use the Colin Powell Criteria in the finished product. You may have seen these rules before, or heard them. They are well-known but often forgotten.  During the first Persian Gulf War, when General Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the early 1990s, he convened a meeting with all DIA and J2 substantive analysts. The decision makers at all levels rely upon intelligence analysts to perform the hard-core analysis, and want to trust that the intelligence information provided is solid.  He cautioned that analysts are doing a disservice to the decision maker if they bury their informed judgments or guesses within what is known to be factual, and stressed how important it is that we not try to hide what we think within what we know to be true.  He also reminded the assembled group that it is OK to say “I don’t know.”  In fact, clearly identifying the intelligence gap is just as valuable to a decision maker as outlining the known.  The point he stressed is that analysts should always clearly outline what is known and what is not known before imparting an informed judgment or assessment, and to clearly differentiate between the three.

  • Tell me what you know
    • Intelligence Fact
  • Tell me what you don’t know
    • Intelligence Gap
  • Tell me what you think
    • Analyst judgment or assessment


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