There is a difference between an analysis and an assessment. I don’t know that I have always used these two words properly and, while it might sound minor or like just a semantic difference, the words do have specific and very different meanings.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an “analysis” is defined as the careful study of something to learn about its parts, what they do and how they are related to each other. To analyze something is to separate a whole into its component parts, which allows a person to break something complex down into simpler and more basic elements. On the other hand, an assessment is defined as the act of making a judgment about something. To assess something, you are estimating the value or character of the object.

Behavioral analysis is used in a number of different contexts by different professionals in relation to threat recognition, child development, mental health concerns, employee development and countless other fields. The way that we use behavioral analysis is to explain how to use the uncontrollable and universal elements of nonverbal communication to facilitate on-the-ground decision-making and the proactive recognition of threats.

While the difference between an analysis and an assessment might seem superficial, distinguishing between the two helps to frame and understand what an organization requires in order to fill their security gaps. As you establish expectations for the time spent learning to read behavior, knowing the difference between behavioral analysis and behavioral assessments can help to provide some clarity about your new ability.

A Tactical Analysis

The Tactical Analysis ® program that we provide to our clients is an application of behavioral analysis to support and inform the decisions made by the members of our nation’s military, law enforcement officers and security professionals, tasked with protecting our country, our citizens and our freedoms. Being able to go through an analysis process to establish the baseline for people and the areas we visit is a crucial skill for the protectors who take our classes.

Tactical analysis is the way we break down people, situations and the environment into its component parts using the four pillars of observable behavior. These four pillars provide enough information to get a comprehensive understanding of a situation without slowing the decision-making process. The four pillars are:

  • Pillar #1: Individual people
  • Pillar #2: Groups of people
  • Pillar #3: How people relate to their environment
  • Pillar #4: The collective mood

By learning how to analyze behavior in this context, our nation’s protectors can read the human terrain, can identify which parts of their analysis need improvement and realize what information they need to improve their understanding of the situations they are in.

  • For the military, being able to conduct a tactical analysis of the areas being patrolled allows for a unit to quickly understand the dynamics of the location so they can identify the enemy targeting them more quickly and accurately. The process of collecting the information stemming from the four pillars allows for this group to become operationally effective much sooner in their deployment.
  • For police officers, being able to conduct a tactical analysis of an area allows a field-training officer to pass their experience on to a rookie officer to make them effective on the job sooner by providing a terminology for the behaviors being observed.
  • For private security professionals, being able to analyze situations and events using the four pillars means the advance work done by executive protection teams can be thorough and detailed.

Tactical Assessments

Tactical assessments are the fourteen different behavioral assessments that comprise the four pillars of observable behavior, but they are taught in relation to recognizing threats and identifying the members of criminal, insurgent and terrorist organizations. These are the assessments that our nation’s protectors need to make in order to do their job in the most effective way possible and to prevent violence from occurring. The fourteen assessments are:

  • Pillar #1: Individuals:
    • People displaying one of the four clusters of behavior:
      • Dominant, Submissive, Uncomfortable, or Comfortable.
  • Pillar #2: Groups of People:
    • The relationship between members of a group are:
      • Intimate, Personal, Acquaintances, Strangers
  • Pillar #3: Environment:
    • Places are either:
      • Habitual areas or anchor points
    • People are either:
      • Familiar or unfamiliar with their surroundings
  • Pillar #4: The Collective:
    • Places have either:
      • Positive atmospherics or negative atmospherics

By learning to make these different behavioral assessments and recognitions, our protectors develop the ability to use these assessments to support some essential decisions:

  • The four clusters of individual behavior are used to begin the process of identifying people who have violent intentions.
  • Assessments about group dynamics can be expanded to include how to identify the leaders of groups.
  • Assessments about the environment include the identification of patterns that reveal when people visit areas with violent intentions
  • Assessments about the collective mood are taught to identify when a shift in atmospherics reveals a change that a protector should take note of and investigate.

Tying It Back Together

By understanding the assessments you make and improving your ability to make them accurately and rapidly, a professional can more accurately analyze the situation they are in and determine if the existing conditions are in their best interest or if they need to be changed. By developing your ability to use the terminology established in the tactical assessments, veteran operators with a wealth of experience and intuitive understanding of events can analyze them more clearly and articulate how they perceived a situation using the component parts. This helps to develop a novice’s ability to make intelligent decisions through mental preparation and development, but most importantly, provides the structure to go through an analysis process in the same way, each and every time. Developing the habit of conducting a tactical analysis, using the tactical assessments, is what will help our nation’s protectors accelerate through the decision-making process and take action more quickly than the criminal can.