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Editor’s Note: Assessments

Frederick Lindemann was one of Winston Churchill’s secret weapons. Known as “the Prof,” he was one of the first people Churchill tapped for his ministry, according to Erik Larson in his new book The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.

Lindemann helped Churchill face the challenges of World War II. In his dual role as special scientific adviser and personal assistant to the prime minister, Lindemann was given “license to explore any scientific, technical, or economic matter that might influence the progress of the war,” writes Larson.

His general willingness to meddle in any government process and provide new and different direction made Lindemann unpopular with his peers. But Churchill needed Lindemann to “challenge the orthodox, the tried-and-true, and thereby spark greater efficiency,” according to Larson.

Lindemann turned his brain to vast numbers of projects. And, though he was not always correct, he was frequently able to see past the obvious and provide insight. For example, he demonstrated that a poster campaign urging Britons to save water—and money—by fixing leaky faucets cost far more in production, labor, and printing than the cost of the lost water. Lindemann was also instrumental in investigating a German radio navigation technology that would allow accurate night bombing—an advantage that Churchill believed could lead to an invasion of the British Isles. The Royal Air Force fought back using radio jamming technology and transmitting false signals.

However, according to Churchill, Lindemann’s greatest gift was his ability to “decipher the signals from the experts on the far horizons and explain to me in lucid, homely terms what the issues were.” Lindemann’s statistical branch, S-Branch, gathered information from government departments and searched for efficiencies and synergies. The outputs of S-Branch—charts and graphs that distilled facts into actionable data—were especially useful to Churchill and the war effort.

In today’s terms, Lindemann was a data analyst, assessing situations and delivering advice on a course of action. The ability to make informed decisions based on data is an urgent business need today.

In this month’s cover story, Thomas Stutler, CPP, explores how formal assessments of potential employees can provide hiring managers with actionable information on how that applicant might perform in a given job. “Employers do not want to hire someone who has topped out at their current level and who does not have the motivation to excel in a more demanding role. Nor do they want someone who cannot handle stress and accept feedback or who does not collaborate well with others,” writes Stutler.

This issue also includes information on COVID-19 and its effect on the world economy. As Security Management goes to press, data on the virus is plentiful, but effective analysis is difficult. The fog of uncertainty for today’s business leader is as dense as the fog of war was for Churchill.

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