CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Scenario Planning at the National Intelligence Council

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Scenario Planning at the National Intelligence Council

A long, long time ago – maybe in November -- an Alert Reader asked for more info about strategic planning and/or jointness. Don't know if that Alert Reader is still out there, but there are some interesting things about this floating around the blogosphere today. The International Futures Model (IFs) website, (ht: :: Daniel W. Drezner via Instapundit), run by the National Intelligence Council, allows anyone in the public to model their own version of what the world will look like in the future.
This powerful tool allows users to generate in-depth, year-by-year projections through 2020 for a large number of variables. Topics covered include demographic, economic, energy, sociopolitical and environmental factors. IFs can be displayed at the country specific level, and results can be aggregated for regions of the world. Users can display forecasts in tables and on maps or graphically. pre-computed forcasts exist foor the Ifs base case and for the four scenarios of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 Project. users can also easily create their own scenariso. The forecasts of Ifs should be treated as illustrations of possible futures rather than predictions. In addition to enabling its users to look forward, IFs also contains data on 160 countries stretching back more than forty years.
This is fascinating stuff for several reasons. First, just having an online forum for the general public to use this info and this tool is a great way to foster discussion. Second, the existence of a tool like this, geared toward modeling alternative futures and not just predicting the correct one, means that the ideas of "scenario planning" are getting to be in vogue in the National Security Community. These ideas have been "popularized" by Philip C Bobbitt, who holds a PhD in Strategy from Oxford, and a JD in Law from Yale, and teaches Constitutional Law at the University of Texas in Austin. I first discovered Bobbitt when reading this opinion piece he wrote in the New York Times last in 2003:
For nearly 50 years, American decision-makers could rely on forms of "strategic planning" — a method that begins with choosing a desired result and then plotting the decisions that will have to be made to reach that goal. Strategic planning worked well in the two-power world because we were able to extrapolate from a relatively stable and familiar security environment, relying on more or less agreed-upon intelligence estimates. Governments sought the likeliest linear future, and planned accordingly. Unfortunately, in an increasingly decentralized world, in which previously insignificant actors and factors can play a decisive role, strategic planning can leave decision-makers flat-footed. In its unidimensional reliance on a single future, strategic planning hardens the "official future" agencies internalize, and thus prepares them poorly for appreciating rapid changes in circumstance and for making agile adaptations.
Bobbitt then explains "scenario planning" as an alternative:
In this new era of uncertainty, not only must we must accept that simple forecasting is not going to be very useful to us, we must sharpen our skills of forethought. One way will be to augment traditional strategic planning with "scenario planning," a strategy that has long been a staple at the largest multinational corporations. Scenario planning involves the creation of alternative narratives about the future based on different decisions — by many players — as each scenario progresses. As opposed to the classic strategic method of applying the past to the future — coming up with a single, likeliest story about how things will turn out — scenario planning is about applying the future to the present, creating a learning framework for decisions. The idea is not so much to predict the future as to consider the forces that will push the future along different paths, in order to help leaders recognize new possibilities, assess new threats and make decisions that reach much further into the future. Scenario planning can also exploit the changes under way in intelligence collection — especially the greater emphasis on human sources. Unlike strategic planning, which tends to rely on quantitative and technical information like population figures and productivity reports, scenario planning tends to use more qualitative and dynamic data. It depends in large part on studying economic, political and social trends. Scenario planning at Royal Dutch Shell, where I am a senior adviser, helped the corporation become one of the most profitable oil conglomerates. In the early 1970's, its scenario planners worked on hypothetical futures involving an oil boycott against the West; when political events finally brought about the Arab oil crisis, the company not only wasn't taken by surprise, it was in a position to capitalize. In the 1990's Shell analysts were scenario-planning a potential backlash against global companies, long before the antiglobalization movement took off. Thus, while most companies reacted to the new movement with corporate disdain, Shell was courting nongovernmental groups and decentralizing its global operations so that decisions in foreign divisions could be made by people living in and sensitive to the countries affected. Getting the government to emphasize scenario planning will not be easy. To be successful, the approach depends on well-organized dialogue between decision makers at many levels, which would be culture shock for the rigidly hierarchical executive branch. (Indeed, despite the efforts of advocates like Joseph Nye, dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, to get Washington interested in scenario planning, only one country, Singapore, has made extensive use of the practice.) Our various national security agencies may not be competitive businesses, but they often behave toward each other as if they were. Intelligence is often "stovepiped" — when analysts refuse to share information and sources with interagency rivals working on the same problems — and mutually distrustful cultures abound. Also, scenario planning requires a political culture that is tolerant of uncertainty. Contingencies of uncertain probability tend to be of little interest to politicians, who are confident they know the future. Similarly, competing scenarios are anathema to bureaucrats whose careers are threatened by answering questions like, "What would it take for this estimate to be dramatically wrong?" — which translates to, "What arguments can you give me that undermine your own recommendations?" To change this culture, we need an interagency working group that can organize scenario planning for a new era. It should be headed by the senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, and should include the director of policy planning at the State Department, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the political-military director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the assistant secretary of Defense for strategic and threat reduction, and a senior representative of the Treasury secretary. This body would be charged with coordinating the work and circulating the results of scenario planning by a team made up of veteran government analysts and, perhaps, experienced people from the private sector.
Being an advocate of "jointness," The Adventures of Chester would like to point out the inherent joint nature of this type of thinking about the future. Bobbitt argues that without a joint commitment to its success from various parts of the federal government, such planning will fail. If any readers use the scenario planning site to model the future, send an email with the results. Remember, it's about creating different scenarios that could be true, not seeing whose is the best prediction. More on "jointness:" here: The Failure of the Intelligence Reform Bills, here: "Jointness" is catching on, here: A Colonial Corps? and here: Colonial Operations and Strategic Communication.


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Throughout the centuries history tells of men and women with the midas touch, who achieved greatness against what seemed insurmountable odds. To some their successes appeared to be the result of blind luck, to others the reward for hard work, but the truth about the successes of men such as Andrew Carnagie and Henry Ford is much more interesting.
Success is a state of mind to which all people should aspire. Like many others you can unlock te gate to achievement and the fulfilment of yor personal desires. With the six steps outlined below anyone can arrive at a set destination, with the added advantage of renewed self-confidence and secure in the knowledge that every goal is attainable.
Step 1. Desire
The key factor involved in the process of achieving any desire lies in the response of one's mind to the objective. If a complacent attitude is apparent then there will be a lack of enthusiasm leading to failure or only half-success.
If a goal is to be reached determination is needed to carry set plans through to a successful conclusion. This determination must have enough mental 'weight' behind it to propel you forward onto the road of achievement. This mental state can only be instilled by one thing - desire!
As can be easily seen, when we look around us, it is this desire-force that has launched mankind on his frenzied zest for ever-new knowledge and has enabled him to push back the boundaries of science to never dreamed of achievement.
It is this same desire-force that must be used in our business and personal affairs if the success we seek is to materialize. It is not very hard to develop this kind of desire for all you have to do is go after what you really want - its that simple. With this desire you will have all the persistence you need to accomplish your goal. There is a great saying "you never fail until you give up"!
Take heed of what Napoleon Bonaparte said "What we ardently and constantly desire, we always get".
Step 2. Goals
If success is to come your must realise what is expected to materialize. This statement may seem obvious at first but if careful thought is given its meaning takes on deeper significance.
Many people fail to gain satisfactory results from their endeavours because they did not know what they wanted to accomplish in the first place. Your objective must not be hazy or incomplete. Before you reach your goal you must be able to identify how your life will be different when you achieve it. You must know exactly what it is that you want to achieve. How will your life be better/different? How will you feel? What way will you look? What situations will you find yourself in? Will other people in your life be effected and if so how will they react? You need a clear definite picture in your mind of what the attainment of your goal will mean to you.
Step 3. Belief
Belief is the back-up system of desire. It keep the fires of enthusiasm burning and makes us continually strive to get nearer the goal attainment. Faith can truly move mountains; the mountains of fear, inferiority, worry and low self esteem - 'the success killers'!
Once a goal is firmly fixed in mind and our desire-force is hurtling us toward seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the firm belief that we can gain a favourable outcome can spur us on to victory. When the mind has been manipulated to reflect this state, wonderful physical results can ensue, producing symptoms of success in our lives in every area imaginable.
Although many can attest to the power of belief and to the wondrous accomplishments that were achieved through nothing else except faith, it still remains that many individuals find it hard to believe that a positive outcome will be forthcoming when they are faced with momentous opposition. Whether the opposition is mental or physical the fact that nothing seems to be going right and everything seems to be wrong is enough for even the strongest of us to 'throw in the towel'. But it is in these very situations that faith can conquer all. Faith in yourself, what you are doing and belief that that your objective will be reached.
There are some who bemoan "easier said than done". This is exactly the kind of mental attitude that sustains the problems that they are trying to eradicate. If your belief power is not apparent, take hope for it can be acquired.
Each morning and night recite your intentions from a written list of your goals. Voice your belief in your own abilities. Tell yourself that in due course you will be successful. As you go about your daily affairs reflect as often as possible on your goals and affirm that they are yours now. Fool your mind into believing it and you will see your world reflect it!
Step 4. Plan
Having decided upon your goal and being determined to build your faith you need to give your desire-force a 'vehicle' through which it may materialize. This 'vehicle' will take the form of a definite plan of action.
Do you need to acquire certain skills? Do you need to know certain people or be in certain places to help you achieve your goal? Make a plan that will help you get closer to your end objective. Research your desires and get clear on what you need to do. Then do it!
Ensure that your plan is workable and realistic for you. Although your plan should remain flexible so that changes can be made when appropriate only make changes after careful consideration. Trial and error will eventually show the way to a good plan although you should be open to intuition also.
However, I should point out that, it is very likely your goal will materialize in a most unexpected way. The fact that you have set a plan for its accomplishment tends to set things in motion and like a chain reaction (or the butterfly effect) subtle changes made by you may cause dramatic changes elsewhere and your goal may come before your plan is completed.
Step 5. Visualization
Visualization is the art of creating mental movies of your completed goal. This has many beneficial effects upon your consciousness. Without going into the deeper esoteric benefits of using this art let me just say that you are truly designing your life when you use it. It has one other major benefit - it strengthens your desire and persistence because you momentarily experience the thrill of having achieved your goal!
Just form a mental picture of having achieved your goal. See what you will see. Feel how wonderful it will be. See how it effects everyone around you. Hear people congratulate you. When this state is experienced nothing will stop you in your quest for your objective and thus your belief-power will also be reinforced.
Step 6. The Subconscious Mind
It is within the subconscious part of your mind that you hold all th positive and negative beliefs about yourself - your self-image. These beliefs are reflected back to you in the form of attitudes. Therefore it is from the subconscious mind that the thought of failure or success comes.
Attitudes are just mental programs and so is your self-image. They can easily be changed (yes I said 'easily'). Any attitude or belief can be changed by using the formula outlined in this article - by combining affirmations with visualization. Henry Ford used it, as did Ralph Waldo Emerson and even Arnold Swatzeneger. It is reported in some circles that a similar technique was employed by Bill Gates to build his global empire. Andrew Carnegie used it exactly as described to attain and give away multi-millions even though he was an unschooled manual worker when he started it. Carnegie's legacy can still be seen today when you freely borrow a book from any Carnegie library of which there are thousands.
If you use these six steps there is nothing you cannot achieve. Luckily we have the advantage of living in the Twentieth Century with all its new technology and innovations such as hypnosis and subliminal programming. Use these steps in conjunction with your favourite personal development system and you are assured success.

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