Strategy, Policies and Procedures, Or Human Frailties...Where does Failure in Security Manifest?

Adam Elkus has a great article up on Open Security that hits on some very important points when it comes to implementing security related strategies. His focus is on foreign affairs but the lessons he speaks of, factor into all human affairs, conflict and violence and in our efforts to implement security strategy’s .

War has always been such a tremendously complex undertaking that every force waging it has sought to simplify and standardize. At the same time, this simplification and standardization is usually inimical to the kind of creativity needed to win. Finding a balance between the art and science of war has always been difficult, especially in an era thoroughly dominated by science in all major areas of everyday life.

In the end it comes done to learning-unlearning and relearning from history and each and every encounter, as well as understanding that yesterdays plan may not work today due to the adaptation of the adversary. In my view failure to adapt is why policies and procedures are eventually defeated. in the aftermath of a security breech such as the recent flight 253 those reviewing search for the answers in paper trails of procedures to follow and who was on a ski-slope and failed to return.

Failure is not rooted in policies and procedures and the search to simplify in a deterministic way or in the fact that the BOSS was not back at the office. Failure is manifested long before the event ever takes place in our failure to prepare. A plan, a policy, a procedure is only part of preparation and a small part at that. the truth to preparation is in the constant and never ending cycle of developing attributes in security professionals that understand conflict and violence in its whole . that are adversaries are an animate force constantly adapting to our every move. So we must constantly be searching for changes in patterns as well as changing our own. Policy and procedures often take individual initiative away from frontline security personnel causing friction in the decision making cycle and hence our failures in effective security.

The human decision-making process, Boyd argues, deals with this conundrum through a constant dialectic of creation and destruction of mental patterns and perceptions in response to a changing and complex observed reality. We cannot escape from chaos, rather we are most successful when we embrace it by shattering the rigid mental patterns that have built up and then synthesize the new realities we observe to create a new understanding. Such a process of structuring, dissolving, restructuring, and dissolving again must be repeated endlessly.

Policies and procedures may make us at times efficient, but efficiency alone is not the answer to security related issues. Instead the answer lies in effectiveness in our ability as people to adapt in a fluid way to the unfolding circumstances.

Stay Oriented!

Fred