The Element: Chapter 15


Test Drive is in the Team Leader position, leapfrogging to it from last meeting where he lead them through a discussion on how the team roles operate together in an ideal state. His job now was to wrap-up the documentation from the previous meeting, and support oversight and documentation of the current meeting.

“Where are we now?” Test Drive asked. “We have identified the moving parts of the Element, an elite 5-Man Team. These are the roles we execute. We also have a good understanding of how the roles operate together.  Today’s meeting is at Tony’s Restaurant in Birch Run, Michigan, because I felt that size might be relevant for today’s discussion.”


“You will find today’s role assignment in your dossiers,” Rusty said.

Team Leader: Test Drive
Point-Man: Rusty
First Defense-Man: Coach
Second Defense-Man: T
Rear Security: Freelance

“Time to open up the floor to discuss Application knowledge of the Element,” Rusty said. “Think about the industry standards that are available to us, where team members start to learn small pieces of the job. As we graduate to the next meetings, we will document higher level functions, but for now, keep it basic.”

“For this meeting, I want to lead our focus toward basic industry standard mission components,” Rusty said.

“The scope needs to be relevant to the team,” Coach said. “A belief that they can participate, and have something to offer. It is helpful to have a background that can support. Can you make the topic a calling, or are you there just to be a part of the team? How can you do a good job working on something if it is not a passion? If your first reaction is this is a bunch of bullshit and there is nothing that can change my mind, how can you be an elite team member?”

“Of course we all have open minds about a challenge?” Rusty asked.

“I am not a Debby Downer,” Coach said, “but there comes a point we need our mind’s right. When team members tap out, that leaves more work for those holding the bag. I don’t mind supporting others when they need help, but do not want to support a full mission because I am the only person with their head in the game.”

“A hell of a lot of passion Coach,” Rusty said.  “T, you are up next.”

“I seem to remember you guys being kidnapped and thrown into a snowbank in the middle of the woods,” T said. “It was a memorable discussion about wood-chippers to cut down the size of a project. An Element is only made of 5 team members, so there is less chance of workload leveling. The team needs a scope size that is focused, not too big and not too small.”

“OK, “ Rusty said, “we need a little more than just the right size.”

Tony's Sandwich

“Take a look at this sandwich that is about the size of a football,” T said. Now, imagine a mission scope is the bread. As the mission, or the amount of turkey and bacon grows, the contents will spill over the edges when engaged.”

“Dang, that sure is a lot of bacon,” Freelance said has he reached for a handful of bacon.

Stay focused,” T said, as she slapped Freelance’s hand. “My role as a Defense-Man requires full attention to the speaker, which includes bacon patrol.”

“Just like our sandwich,” T said, “the contents of the mission must fit within the scope. We may need to take the top slice off and remove a little bacon.”

She knocked off about a half pound of bacon onto Freelance’s plate, and received a large grin from her teammate.

“This is where our border crossing reviews are so important. After each of the Design Thinking steps, we meet with a border crossing guard to review not only progress, but the health of the mission. These opportunities, as early on in the mission as possible, are important. Ask the critical question. Can we handle the sandwich without all the bacon spilling all over the place?”

“An accelerated or decelerated project schedule,” Freelance blurted as he spit pieces of bacon. “There is so much what I dearly love. Oh my, sweet bacon.”

“Back on track with the conversation,” T warned.

“I agree with Coach’s statement about belief,” Freelance said. “We are not stupid people, so the opportunity must make sense in both scope, schedule and budget. Is the sandwich too big to eat? Is there enough time to eat it? Are there enough funds in the mission to pay for it?”

“What you guys are tying to say is to be open minded about a mission, but it must make sense to the team?” Rusty asked.

“Exactly!” Freelance said as he chomped on the remaining bacon. He held up a finger while he swallowed . “A 5-Man team with buy-in from all can make the mission possible instead of mission impossible.”

“This is some very basic project management 101 stuff, but it plays well when defining industry standards,” Rusty stated. “Lucky for the team that I brought a dossier on relevant spy trade-craft language to fill in the empty space of this conversation.”

“Speaking of mission impossible, our meeting time is up and I have only finished half my sandwich,” Freelance said.

Spy Trade-Craft Language Dossier

Code Breaking: When gathering intelligence, what is said needs to be evaluated to understand what is meant. People often speak in a cryptic fashion that does not clearly represent their thoughts. It takes well developed questions, good technique, the ability to recognize duress factors that can skew the results, and lots of practice.

Dead Drop: This process utilizes Email or mail to pass information between agents. Information from personal memory can also use this technique, as knowledge is left in the brain or in a note pad until picked up and used for a Design Thinking project.

Dossier: Intelligence that has been grouped together for reference to be used in a Culture Spy mission. The knowledge will be a mix of topic and people information relevant to the mission.

Dry Cleaning: Counter-surveillance technique to recognize tails, which are blindly following agents. Signs of this are excessive head nodding, being overly agreeable or silent to presented intelligence. Either the agent is totally lost on the topic and willing to give up their right to any input to the conversation, or they are multitasking and their focus is somewhere else.

Eavesdropping: The act of listening in on a conversation between others to ascertain future intelligence topics or targets.

Interrogation: Gathering intelligence under duress, either by using a demanding questioning technique or applying influence based upon a power position. This technique is far removed from our humanizing goal at the base of Design Thinking and never appropriate in real life, so leave it for the movies.

Live Drop: A live drop is an in person exchange of knowledge. These meetings benefit from being able to witness body language.

Surveillance: Listen to everyone, because everyone has experiences that are unique. The only way to tap into this knowledge is to let them be the storyteller and absorb the experience vicariously through them. As Design Thinkers, the most valuable human experiences are those received directly from the human source.

Wire Drop: Method makes use of Phone, Skype, or IM to pass information between agents. This method is not secure and prone to eavesdropping by unfriendly agents or wiretapped for recording.

Wiretapping: Simply a recording of Wire Drop operations

You are on the team, so please comment on this issue to add additional experiences that can be drawn from to create a solid project definition.



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