Demystifying the Security Business Unit

By Francisco Mateo

Many organizations around the world have hired security professionals to man security departments.  The reasons are obvious, in a fragmenting world risk are ever more unpredictable. Companies can no longer sit around and wait for threats to inflict damage to their people, assets, reputations and brands (PARB), so they tap the professionals to do vulnerability and threat assessments and subsequently provide recommendations and action plans.

Security is unique among operations department, looking at the organization horizontally, vertically and laterally for risks. That is why when the going gets rough the company honchos look to security for solutions. Just look at the services many companies expect to be provided by their security business partners: physical security for staff and assets, travel security, loss prevention, investigations, crisis management, executive protection, guard force management, just to name a few. It is an incredibly complex matrix of mission critical solutions expected from an understaffed, under-budgeted and overworked department. That is indeed the reality of the security suite today. The experts are in agreement that security department is one of the business units that has suffered must since the economic downturn began.  The key indicators tell the story, from hiring freezes across industries to low attendance at trade shows and reduced security technology spending.

Ever the optimist, security practitioners have set out to deal with the new normal, a fragmenting global economy, crushed by the weight of debt, underemployment and under-consumption all having a detrimental effect on productivity and profit margins. There are also asymmetrical risks (illicit global business activities) working their way through from the periphery to the core of our global business environment. Through all of this the security suite must be a vanguard in understanding and mitigating its effects. Take for instance the trends in theft of hot commodity products and raw materials negatively affecting, on one end prices and on another production cycles, as well as, infrastructure capacity.  But, who can ignore the chronic piracy problem on the Horn of Africa; a hydra of risk events affecting this vital route of global commerce, eroding confidence and creating global supply chain inefficiencies.  You can rest assure there are many security suites at organizations large and small monitoring the gathering storm of violent protest in Europe driven by government austerity measures (and given the fragility in the state of global affairs) to determine the risk they represent and creating tactical plans to lessen the impact on their people and assets. It is this maelstrom of risk scenarios that fills a security executive’s agenda. It begs the question whether enough resources have been allocated to tackle these mission critical events. The answer may surprise you.

The truth is that there has been a new mantra in security, like any other service organization, for quite some time, “do more with less”.  Despite the shrinking budgets, the security executive is challenged to manage a peak performance organization without skipping a beat from the plumb times just a few years ago. Adopting efficient business operation methodologies like Lean Security have been paramount. Applying lean security principles requires focus on value-added activities on a continuous improvement loop that delivers result and enhances productivity.  The simple process that keeps the security practitioner from lamenting the lost of budget allocation for important security investment and instead making it work just as well, if not better than before is an act of lean thinking.

Allow me to illustrate the point: say you want to harness and enhance your security guard service’s return on investment (ROI). You identify which security guard activities cut across multiple functions. You zero in on building patrols, which from the outset offers a return on investment by reducing premises liability exposures, as well as leading to lower insurance rates. But this activity has greater potential as it can also be leveraged to cut maintenance cost. It is feasible that the retained security services staff would be trained and empowered to perform tasks such as: turning off lights and HVAC systems after hours; identifying defective building systems and calling for emergency service (elevators, data centers, electricity and water services, ect); as well as turning off space heaters, and coffee pots, which may elevate the risk of building fires. Such activities can reduce maintenance staffing cost, while constantly mitigating potential vulnerabilities. As you apply continuous improvement processes you determine some patrol routes only add time to the physical walk through, without the residual benefit previously described. The process is more effectively served with automation like adding an integrated CCTV with zone-specific sensors array to enabled virtual patrols of the area with clearly defined escalation protocols. The real power behind lean security principles is that it can be dynamically applied to asset protection (as previously exemplify) as well as people, reputation and brand protection problem solving.

The linchpin behind the successful application of these methodologies is reflective leadership or when the managers actively apply new ideas to transform on-going initiatives and concerns.  We thrive under these difficult times because like other high performance organizations the security suite resides in a problem solving space, making us adept at evaluating personalities; constantly looking for collaboration opportunities (decimating silos); leveraging institutional synergies and culture. One of the reasons that executives at many organizations have come to rely on security professionals for mission critical activities at their outfits is because they’ve come to expect this level of transformational results.

It is quite evident when you look at the job descriptions for security managers at many organizations that they aim to obtain more than assurances.  For the most part they’re not disappointed, but don’t make the mistake of expecting a pad on the back. Do expect however to be challenged at every junction to demonstrate your worth regardless of the risk scenarios.  For senior company executives the real issue is obviously one of perception, any threat to revenue and shareholder value can be partially transferred to the security suite with the expectation that it won’t hit the balance sheet. Unfortunately as the pendulum has swung to bust cycles on the bursting of global financial bubbles the security suite has been a prime target for trims.  We are well prepared though. It does not change the basic fact that as our risk mitigation strategies improve (lower cost, greater output), and the economic recession deepens…insert your expected outcome here: _______________________________________________________________________.

Security Operational Risk

I’ve experience this enough times that I feel compelled to share my take on this particular operational risk affecting more organizations than you care to know. During the course of a security audit conducted recently I came across the picture of a model security officer displayed on the brochure of a guarding firm now providing service at the client’s site. It just so happens that one of the guards feature on this brochure had been terminated several years earlier from this same site when he confessed to me he had stolen a digital video recorder from the AV area.

The situation is just a snapshot of the dimensional risk involved in the security services business. It is no doubt an unforgiving business where firms are constantly competing with a limited talent pool. I say this because this particular security officer was well regarded before being caught red-handed, so I’m not surprised he landed at another guard service company. It does not however preclude the fact that this guarding firm now has a thief amongst their ranks. One individual who could’ve been back to his old ways, if my initial profile of his behavior, at the time I interviewed him, remains accurate.

You may ask why this person wasn’t reported to the authorities, since a criminal record would’ve precluded him from retaining a security guard license and thus becoming available for recruiting by an unsuspecting guard service firm and ultimately being placed at a vulnerable client site, ripe for the picking— judging from the automatic veil of trust endowed on these protection agents. Well at the time legal counsel advised against prosecution, citing that it was not worth the risk (read cost, fickle justice system). Such is the reality of these incidents at many private businesses.  I now have the ethical responsibility to warn this guard service firm of what they could be exposed to.

This situation is akin to a sexual predator being allowed to work as a licensed physical therapist where he/she is constantly coming in close contact with patients/clients. In retrospect reporting the matter to the authorities might have been the correct course of action and reasonable decision. Doing so might’ve eliminated a loophole by creating a criminal record easily retrievable by any guard service firm during the criminal background screening. I’d also propose maintaining a blacklist of security staff found to have committed conducts unbecoming of an honest person, but I’m not sure this tactic would pass legal muster. Chances are it would run afoul of due process laws.  The facts remain however that security is an exacting business and operational risks such as this must be eradicated.


How I Use Motivation Theories to Plan the Roadmap Forward

By Francisco Mateo

An important part of being a security practitioner today is obtaining the proper education specific to the subject matter. Recognizing this as member of ASIS International I became a board Certified Protection Professional (CPP).  It was during the Organization Behavior part of my certification studies I first came across Frederick Herzberg’s theory of motivation and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Since then these behavioral theories have serve me well while managing the security force.  Now that unemployment is a subject dear and near to me I realize that these theories also provide insight. Since every crisis offers an opportunity and lost jobs may not be coming back, it draws me to conjecture that if these employed people were to have their basic human needs taken care of and sustained; there may be tremendous opportunity to release a creative force not seen in our lifetime.

First, I’d attempt to briefly explain Maslow and Herzberg’s theory of motivation within the previously explained context. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is based on the idea that individuals work to satisfy human needs, such as food and complex psychological needs such as self-esteem. Accordingly a fulfilled need does little to motivate an employee. In contrast, a person with an unfulfilled need can be persuaded to work to satisfy that need. Under the “Deficit Principle”: it’s a person’s unsatisfied needs that influence his/her behavior; and the unsatisfied need becomes a focal motivator. Under the “Progression Principle” higher order needs are not active motivators until lower order needs are fulfilled; and unfulfilled lower order needs take precedence over higher level needs. In a nutshell these principles explain that if a person is concerned about putting food on the table and paying pass due bills they would not be motivated to think of creative solutions to their problems. Along that line Herzberg’s “Two-Factor Theory” attempts to explain the factors that motivate individuals by identifying and satisfying their individual needs, desires and the aims pursued to satisfy those desires. It is referred to as a two factor theory because of the belief that motivators can be categorized as either hygiene factors or motivating factors. Hygiene factors include: perceived differences with others; job security; working conditions; and interpersonal relations. In terms of motivators it includes: the sense of achievement and the intrinsic value obtained from the job itself; the level of recognition by both colleagues and management; and the level of responsibility and opportunities for advancement.  In simple terms, to motivate an individual, a job itself must be challenging, have scope for enrichment and be of interest to the jobholder. For the last 60 years these and other motivation theories have shaped traditional organizational development. The question is what they have to offer giving our new work paradigm.

It is tough enough keeping employed people motivated during times like these we’re living through. And it is even tougher for people who have been out of work for a while; underemployed or young people looking to enter the workforce during the worst job recession in 30 years. Besides the pressure of generating income to keep up with everyday life, lack of motivation is one of those silent threats. The two lead each other in turn, as pressure to make ends meet would often drive your motivation for seeking solutions. At the same time too much pressure disrupts the cycle, setting off other de-motivating processes.  High levels of motivation are essential to higher productivity; to produce better quality of work with less waste; to develop a greater sense of urgency; and to take more ownership of work product; which is essential for high performance within an organization. These same traits are crucial for folks at home trying to fend for themselves. As the number of unemployed, underemployed and those whose employment future seem uncertain, continue to grow to unprecedented levels; we all have an opportunity to apply Maslow and Herzberg’s theory in new ways. Instead of it being leveraged to improve organizational management, it can be applied to manage yourself and the growing clusters of independent workers. In other words it not only calls for extracting self-management insights, but also self-motivation from these applied theoretical concepts.

The way I envision it, we should be looking at all possible ways we can channel people’s energy towards creative endeavors which in a direct way would keep them from resorting to desperate measures and quick fixes, like violent protest and crime.  High amount of perceived pressure is one of the elements that motivate a person to commit theft and fraud. The same way that frustration and powerlessness motivate violent and destructive civil expressions and protests. Practitioners of security management have been concerned for a while that, given the economic recession crime would spike due to peoples increase pressure to make ends meet. My personal view is that private business and governments are equally dumb founded and don’t seem to have a clear solution to the employment crisis; therefore, new routes to prosperity need to be charted before people look to crime and system disruption, which is possible outcome in a cycle of poverty. I still think we as a society are walking a tight rope.

Applying Maslow’s “Progression Principle” we understand that unless lower order needs (like where they’ll get money for food and shelter) are fulfilled;  higher order needs that lead to creative thinking and complex problem solving would not be active motivators. That said, we know that it has been precisely creativity and innovation which gave rise to the great prosperity we’ve experience during the last 50 years. It could be even better the second time around. However, it can’t be done if people lacked meaningful jobs (that can provide for basic needs). It can’t be done if we don’t educate and train people to think creatively and find ways to be productive.


Protect the People Stupid: New Commodity in the Gulf of Aden

Out of Africa, news about record number of people being held for ransom by Somali pirates. The numbers are staggering; such is the economics driving piracy in this sea lane critical to global commerce. As many expert investigators know if you want to get to the root of chronic crime problem, follow the money. That is indeed what the pirates are after; they’re telling the shipping companies and their insurance policies to show them the money. Their sweet spot is not only taking whole cargo ships hostage, but taking the crew members to induce faster payment.

So far the benefits (Payment of $12.3 million ransom for 2 ships recently) have outweighed the risks of being interdicted by the multi-national naval force currently deployed in the region and the cost of doing business remains low. They recognized the odds are in their favor having 1.1 million miles of sea, encompassing the Horn of Africa, as their playground.

Of the recent innovations and best practices adopted by some merchant shippers, one appears at face value to be effective deterring hostage taking and denial of entry to the cabin area by which pirates can gain control of the ship. The hardening of a ship’s cabin by installing bulletproof components creating what is known as citadels has proven successful at keeping the crew safe and delaying the pirates while an armed response is mustered.  Adding remote control to these citadels would allow the ship’s captain to maneuver the ship from the relative safety of this secure cabin or relinquish control to an off-ship location via GPS link-up.

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