Standardising intelligence training?

Or should that be standardiZing? UK or US English? This is a negligible example of the challenges standardising committees or task teams face.
This week I'm in Tallahassee, Florida to assist with the review of  IALEIA's 40 hours Foundations of Intelligence Analysis Training course (FIAT). The course was first developed in 2003-2004 by a work group consisting of IALEIA, LEIU and NW3C. It is outdated and the Board realised the urgency to align it with new realities, research and methodologies.
The FIAT has been delivered to hundreds law enforcement intelligence analysts in the US, Canada, and a few in the Ukraine and maybe 2 other European cities over the years by teams of practicing analysts and trainers. The purpose was to create a standardised curriculum (slides, exercises, notes and handouts) which can be presented by any person other than those who have developed it. This meant that the presenters needed to be consistent in what they delivered, as well as how they delivered it. It was pretty much prescriptive to achieve these goals.

With standardisation comes a lot of problems:
  • who is the client and how far should the standardisation go? If this is supposed to be only North American based,it will already be a challenge to find common ground between all the different mandates, approaches of the different stakeholders. If the stakeholders go wider, as is the case with a supposedly international organisation, the stakes get higher and more difficult to achieve.
  • The time frame (40 hours) of the course is too tight to achieve all that needs to be achieved, so again, we have to settle with satisfying the minimum requirements. Again we identified the need  for more advanced training and specialised workshops. But funds will dictate when and if ever, we will get there.
  • the terminology: not every agency uses the same words for the same processes and products. So a working team like the FIAT Review team looks at things and processes that are generic to all contexts and make do with the "safest" common denominator that will satisfy as many as possible role players and stake holders.
  • some stakeholders need to understand that this should not be prescriptive, but serve as a guideline as contexts differ. Trying to find a balance between prescription and laissez-faire, is what this makes standardisation so difficult. For example, in the FIAT case, the legal module will be delivered in the US, but in all other countries,  you would bring a local expert to discuss that. 
  • Different levels of knowledge and application of intelligence among trainees: For some, knowledge transferred may be old hat, for other terrifyingly new. The course and student guide should address just enough so that it can serve as a how-to reference guide for when they're back at the office, but also provide that something more advanced for the know-it-alls.
I'm sure we would be able to add additional concerns, but what I again realised with this week's process, is that an organisation like IALEIA, or the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE - which has also started to look at training standards), has an excruciating but exciting job. I see the glass half-full here...
  • IALEIA is in a unique position to create a baseline of understanding and competency levels in the intelligence analysis profession. There is no-one else to do it,  so let's do it! 
  • Standardising the minimum guidelines or standards, creates a minimum that can be built upon and improved by those who want to exceed it. For others who do not have the resources or will to do more, it sets the bar of performance or adherence to a "universally" agreed set of minimum standards. 
  • The variety of stakeholders and experts involved in this stadardising process is absolutely crucial in making sure that it passes the validity and credibility test. This week we have some excellent experts from all corners of the US, Canada and me from SA. It's a great mix!
One will always be confronted with individual and organisational interests, agendas and ego's in such a process. There should be sufficient checks and balances in the process so that the credibility of the organisation like IALEIA doing it, remains intact or even better, is improved. The process should be transparent,  accessible and well-managed.

Thanks Shelagh, Kristi, Merle, Bob, Mary, Liz, Jill and Cynthia for a very satisfying week! I can tick off the Gulf of Mexico on my bucket list now...