Friday, August 14, 2020

Need to know

Two questions:
  1. Do you need to know?
  2. Why do you need to know?

There are a lot of PMOs that deal with government classified specifications and classified contractor-agency relationships, or deal with private or proprietary information; or even legal client-attorney privileged information.  Sometimes it's privileged HR stuff. And sometimes, there is a combination of all of the above.

Fair enough; most of us have had some experience with such project security.

Don't you trust me?
But, here's the issue that can really strain the seams in the PMO:
  • Who gets to know; 
  • Who is in the know;
And, if you are not "in the know" what does that mean? Does it mean you don't trust me? Trust underpins every relationship in the PMO, so how could there be a working PMO if trust is in question?
It's not about trust
The short answer is: it's not about trust. I can trust you absolutely, but still not convey information you don't need.

Often, there is a clash between clearance, compartmentalization, channels, and trust.
  • Clearance: It's all about grading or classifying the harm, if information is disclosed. If you've got "clearance" for certain classifications of information, it means two things: first, you can be trusted to keep to yourself information with that level of harm (if disclosed), and, second, you're not vulnerable to attack by nefarious seekers.

    But, it doesn't mean anyone is going to give you that information just because "you are cleared". You have to get over the hurdle of "having a need to know".
  • Compartmentalization: It's all about controlling who gets to know by putting some information in a compartment or vault (virtual or physical) for which the entry is strictly by invitation.
    And, sometimes the compartment is "black", meaning its mere existence is "denied". You'll need a special decoder ring for this stuff. [With social distancing, secret handshakes are out!]
  • Channels: Compartmentalization often (usually) comes with specific norms, procedures, and channels by which the information can be communication among those that are in the compartment. And again, sometimes these channels are "black".
  • Trust: Trust is necessary, but not sufficient, to establish clearance, invitation to a compartment, and to work within certain channels.

    I trust you absolutely, but if there is no reason for you to have certain information, then you don't get the information even if you have clearance for a specific classification;  or you don't get entry to the compartment. Suck it up; that's the way it is.
Feeling left out
But, of course, the last point is where the rub is.
  • There's the "green door" that others can walk up to and open, but you can't. 
  • There is the meeting you can't go to; and 
  • Worst of all, there is meeting you are in where you are asked to leave so stuff "you're-not-cleared-for" can be discussed!
Yikes, it's like you're labeled as untrustworthy, but, of course, that's not it at all. You just don't have a need to know.

Why can't everyone know?
  • You can't negotiate sensitive matters in a fishbowl; there will be too many people offering opinions for which they don't have the responsibility for consequences.
  • Sources and methods will be compromised; valuable information will be cut off.
  • Competitors get benefits without cost, and may kill you in the market
  • Reputations may be damaged for transgressions already paid for
  • Moral hazard may not be avoidable; to wit: why can't I get the same deal they did?
Keeping a secret
When I worked with this stuff, we had this rule: if you want to keep a secret, don't tell anybody. And, if it's really sensitive, handle as "burn-before-reading". 

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