Colin Powell

The challenge for me was to have informal contacts and to get information from outside the organization that had been set up to provide me information. I did that beginning at 6:30 every morning, when I’d hit my office having read all the newspapers. I would get the CIA to come in for 20 minutes with no other staff members present and tell me what they told the president that morning. So I was getting information outside my organization. I would check Roll Call, the newspaper from Capitol Hill, to see what my Hill buddies were doing.

Then I would call my friends. I had a stable of about eight friends, and I had a phone line that came into my office. If it rang three times and I didn’t pick up, they were to hang up. My secretary was instructed never to answer that phone. Never. If I’m not there, do not pick that phone up. It was a direct line to eight trusted agents, who had nets out everywhere. They told me what was going on inside my organization, outside my organization, everywhere. They told me who was sleeping with whom. They told me the bad news. They told me the good news. They told me when I was really screwed up, and when I was in big trouble and the Washington Post was about to do a job on me. It was that source of information that really gave me power within my organization. You have to have informal networks that are constantly sensing the outside environment and not just be trapped to the formal network that’s within your walls.

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