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Structured Analytic Thinking for Security Decision Making

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CPE Credits
09 - 10 December 2015
Westin Long Beach

No one in the security profession wants to be wrong…or surprised.

Security practitioners each day make decisions based on uncertainty, responding to evolving threats, lack of information, and too few resources for textbook solutions. Unsurprisingly, Chief Security Officers report that critical thinking, decision making, and communications skills are key characteristics for career success.

Great security decisions are based on five key critical thinking skills that enable you to assess hard security problems, anticipate the unexpected, and avoid disastrous mistakes. This certificate introduces security professionals to structured analytic thinking techniques used in the Intelligence Community and increasingly in private industry that organize and diagnose complex issues, explore different ways of thinking, generate solid analytic arguments that justify solutions, and take into account change and ambiguity. Focusing on analytic strategies that improve rigor, avoid mental pitfalls, and communicate clearly with others, you will learn and practice applying the tools to understand context, check key assumptions, consider alternative explanations, seek inconsistent data, and focus on key drivers and indicators of change.

Certificate in Structured Analytic Methods for Security Solutions 
Attend this two-day classroom program; then take the online exam.  Pass the test, and you achieve more than confirmation that you were present in class – you earn validation that you captured the key components of the two-day program. Details

Registration Fees

 Read the Brochure


 Pertinent Information

 Immediate Benefits

Leveraging these skills will improve your work by:

  • Framing issues that take in account differing perspectives.
  • Protecting against cognitive biases that lead to mistakes.
  • Spurring imagination and anticipating unknowns.
  • Dealing with gaps in information.
  • Justifying with evidence your argument and recommendations.
  • Collaborating with others on your team and in other organizations.
  • Being accountable for your decisions.
  • Minimizing the risk that you—or your bosses—are wrong or surprised.
  • And above all, saving time over time.

 Who Should Attend

These structured analytic thinking skills are relevant and essential for all security officers, ranging from Chief Security Officers (CSOs) to their managers and employees.

This certificate program is particularly valuable to Security Professionals seeking to

  • Improve the quality and impact of security products, including threat, vulnerability, and risk assessments and recommendations for change.
  • Reduce the chances of making errors.
  • Save time while increasing accuracy.

 Program Overview

Applying Structured Thinking to Your Problems
Four models or frameworks help us understand how analysis and critical thinking relate to our particular issue or problem. They focus on key dimensions, such as whether data is known or unknown and whether the analysis is reactive or proactive. Student work in small groups to relate the models to their work environment and products.

Conceptualizing Analytic Frameworks and Constructing Logical Arguments
Spending a little time at the beginning of a project to frame the issue and establish the analytic process pays dividends in structuring a solid and meaningful analytic question and establishing the analytic process to generate products, recommendations, and strategies. Students practice identifying the claims, reasons, evidence, and assumptions that comprise analytic arguments and distinguish what makes the arguments effective.

Dealing with Cognitive Biases and Intuitive Traps
Our brains help us deal with ambiguity by drawing on our past experience, but these mindsets are difficult to overcome and can lead us to make errors. The class discusses and participates in exercises that illustrate the impact of memory pitfalls and how structured analytic techniques can help avoid common cognitive biases and practitioners’ intuitive traps.

Brainstorming and Structured Brainstorming
Brainstorming is a group process designed to generate a greater variety of ideas and perspectives than an analyst could do alone. Students practice Structured Brainstorming, using silent brainstorming and sticky notes to quickly frame the range of forces and factors that concern and impact their customers.

Checking Your Key Assumptions
One of the most frequently used techniques, the Key Assumptions Check is a systematic effort to make explicit and question the mental model that guides an analyst’s thinking. Students practice the technique on a question regarding their assumptions about future terrorist attacks.

Generating Multiple Hypotheses
Hypotheses are potential explanations or conclusions about issues that analysts test by collecting and presenting evidence. They can be generated by brainstorming or by a more structured technique that generates permutations of the component parts of a lead hypothesis. Students practice on a simple security-related example.

Analyzing Evidence against Multiple Hypotheses
Analysis of Competing Hypotheses seeks to reject rather than confirm hypotheses by systematically evaluating data against a complete set of alternative hypotheses to determine whether they are consistent or inconsistent with each one. Students generate and assess evidence based on the hypotheses developed in the previous exercise.

Using Indicators to Maximum Advantage
Indicators are observable phenomena that can be periodically reviewed to help track events, spot emerging trends, and warn of unanticipated developments or trends. Students learn the qualities of a good indicator and discuss best practices for using indicators in analytic products.

Generating Alternative Futures
Postulating scenarios enables analysts to convey the multiple ways in which a situation might evolve and alert decision makers to opportunities they can plan for or risks they can avoid. Students practice generating alternative futures by defining the extremes of two driving forces to generate four possible scenarios that range from best case to worst case.

Assisting Decision Makers with the Impact Matrix
The Impact Matrix identifies the key actors involved in a decision, their level of interest in the issue, and the impact of the decision on them. Students practice this framing technique to get a better sense of how well or poorly a decision may be received, how it is most likely to play out, and what would be the most effective strategies to implement a decision or a new policy.

Putting It All Together: Five Habits of the Master Thinker
Each of the techniques practiced maps to one of the five key critical thinking skills that analysts need to develop and practice on a daily basis. The class discusses the value of using specific techniques for types of security products and how the techniques can save time and encourage collaboration.

 Hours, Fees, & Hotels

Registration Hours

Program Hours

Registration Fees
Fee includes a networking reception and refreshment breaks. Hotel costs are not included. 

Member: $925

Hotel Information
Westin Long Beach
333 East Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach, CA 90802

Be sure to mention ASIS when requesting the special room rate of $149 single/double (plus tax). It will be honored until November 15 or until the room block is full.


Team Discount
Receive a 10% discount when three to five attendees register from the same organization, 15% for six or more. Email for details.

Certification Discount
ASIS members and nonmembers holding the distinction of CPP, PCI, and PSP receive a $25 discount per classroom program. This discount is automatically applied at checkout.


Ms Katherine H Pherson
  • Ms Katherine H Pherson
  • CEO
  • Pherson Associates
  • Great Falls VA, UNITED STATES
  • Colleagues: 0

Bio: Katherine Hibbs Pherson, author of Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence, co-chairs the Intelligence and National Security Alliance’s Security Policy Reform Council. As CEO of Pherson Associates, she promotes analytic techniques and critical thinking in government and private industry. During 27 years at CIA, she led the adoption of risk management methodologies, strengthened overseas security countermeasures, and managed the IC’s role in rebuilding the penetrated US Embassy in Moscow. Ms. Pherson earned an A.B. from Vassar College and M.A.’s from the Universities of Illinois and Oklahoma. She received the CIA's Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal and the IC’s National Distinguished Service Medal.