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Terrorism, Decision-Making and Uncertainty

Have you seen the January 2012 report on “Policy Considerations in Combatting Terrorism: Decision-Making Under Conditions of Risk and Uncertainty“?

Combatting terorrism is something the US Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (the US Military Academy) has to deal with all the time, but how can this report help a business continuity planner?  Well, even if you don’t have a remit to combat terrorism, you probably do have issues around planning in uncertainty.  For how does one plan precisely for potential problems in the future when we don’t know precisely what the future will bring?

We’ll let you read Michelle Malvesti’s 25-page paper for yourself, but there are a few points we got from it and thought we’d share.  We’re well aware we’re taking a very high level document intended for presidents and governments and providing our own thoughts on how it may be useful to continuity planners and crisis managers, but if you can’t learn from the very top, from whom can you learn?!

  • Not all negative outcomes can be mitigated, prevented or anticipated
  • Intelligence is often wrong: crisis managers will often note that early intelligence is usually the most wrong
  • Risky strategies sometimes fail: it doesn’t mean it was wrong to try, it just means we should have plans in place in case they don’t work
  • Failed strategies can cause leaders to pause; if a continuity plan is required pausing is sometimes useful and sometimes not, so ensure thought is given to timing in advance of the strategy being deployed
  • Considering a risk well before a decision is made does not change or minimise a risky decision, it simply allows more time for a plan to be formulated should the strategy fail
  • Leaders have to remain open to calculated risks, both in planning and during a crisis: it’s how they are calculated that remains pertinent, and what is put into place in case the risk doesn’t achieve it’s aim

This report offers a thoughtful read.

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