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Breaking bureaucratic bonds.

RAY STOMMEL, 1991 ASIS PRESIDENT, gave a stirring speech at the 36th Annual ASIS Seminar and Exhibits in San Francisco last year. He vividly conjured up a view of ASIS (and security in general) as an elephant being described by seven blind persons. The upshot of the fine speech was that any description depends on your point of view, especially when you are unable to view the whole "elephant."

The presentation made me consider the usual placement of security in the organizational hierarchy. To paraphrase Stommel, where you stand on this crucial issue depends on where you sit.

Since the early-20th-century depiction of the organization as a bureaucracy by the German sociologist and economist Max Weber, business has been stuck with the concept of placing every function into a little organizational boxes or bureaus. Worse, this concept assumes that every function stands alone.

Once Weber's work became popular in the post-World War II era in the United States, bureaucracy became the conventional wisdom for creating order out of the chaos of that economic rebuilding period. The computer era, which started about that time, seemed to be a perfect environment for the concepts of compartmentalization and bureaucracy, and they were avidly accepted throughout the '50s, '60s, and '70s.

Toward the end of that period, aided by the professionalization movement in security that was spearheaded by a burgeoning ASIS, some of the more enlightened sectors of business, industry, and government began to address security as an important issue.

Many attempted to move the functions of security (now enhanced with titles such as loss prevention and assets protection) up to the department level. This added stature to the security manager or loss prevention manager in dealing with the rest of the organization.

Security became a function that attracted attention at the executive level as reports of riots, labor stoppages, executive kidnapping, terrorism, and skyjacking filled the front pages of the papers and the evening television news.

In the 1980s a movement began toward recognizing the role of security in protecting the bottom line of business and government. Increased fraud, embezzlement, computer crime, workplace drug abuse, employee theft, and massive litigation surfaced and were recognized as more harmful than common crime.

ASIS had grown to more than 25,000 members by the end of the 1980s, and the role of security had expanded to touch every function in an organization. The knowledge required of a security manager and his or her staff had also expanded to meet the multifaceted challenges of the 1990s.

As the 1980s drew to a close, security operations began to cost more and more and were faced by the difficulty of justifying their value. How do you measure something that didn't happen because a good security or loss prevention program prevented it?

In a period of cutbacks, security is too often the first victim of the corporate ax, especially when it is viewed as a neat little box that can easily be removed without disturbing the other boxes on the organization chart.

The function of security, especially in tight times, needs to be moved up to the department (policy-making) level. Security should be viewed as a profit center that protects the assets, personnel, and profits of all departments. Any development of policy and procedures to protect assets and personnel should clearly include the department director for security and loss prevention or a person with a similar title.

How security is seen in an organization is often determined by where it is placed on the organization chart. (See Exhibit 1.) How far the security program is placed from the policy-making level can determine the impact security has on the company's operations and profits.

The security manager should try to have as much access to the presidential or vice presidential level as possible. In most companies, the security function is typically placed at one of three levels:

* Department level. Here the security professional has direct access to the top policy-making levels of the company. This is the preferred level for security, as it gives the security function a high profile and professional status.

* Division level. Here the security manager reports to a functional director. Such an arrangement is common, but whether it works well depends on what department security reports to.

* Any lower level. Any level below division seriously affects security's ability to make an impact on policy.

How do you sell to management the concept of a high placement for the security department? All of us in security management must begin to look at our "elephant" from a new viewpoint.

Exhibits 2, 3, and 4 demonstrate some new ways to look at an organization and show the importance of security when seen from those viewpoints. It is important to view security as a central part of an organization rather than as a box buried deep in some unrelated department.

If security can be seen as a major profit center that prevents losses and protects assets in every facility in the company, management develops a much different appreciation of the security task. Exhibit 2 shows a view of a security operation as it affects a company with six different facilities or locations, and it suggests that security is the only factor that is constant and connects with each of them.

Exhibit 3 demonstrates that security can also be seen as the function with the greatest impact on every department in an organization. Whether the company is a multinational giant or a small local business, the various departments have vulnerabilities and risks that can only be properly assessed and addressed by cooperation between the security function and the particular department.

Once management sees that security programs can touch every other department, security's role can be enlarged to handle many of the departmental concerns that cannot be addressed by nine-to-five employees. The maintenance department needs to know where to find potential problems, the shipping department needs to be on the lookout for fraud and waste, the personnel department needs to follow up on allegations by employees, the safety department needs to have all the eyes it can find, and so on. All nonsecurity departments should be able to find value in security.

Security, as shown in Exhibit 4, is made up of a large number of activities that affect every aspect of the company. In a large company, these functions may be performed by different sections of the security department, while in a small company they may all be performed by the same person. These activities affect all departments and all facilities or locations in every company.

It is much more sensible to have these activities centralized under a single security program than to duplicate them throughout the company. This simple concept is yet another way to show the overlapping that occurs when you view security as a central factor rather than a peripheral function in a company's operations. As a total team effort by the company, security becomes a vital part of all facilities, departments, and activities.

Having discovered how to view the security elephant from at least three new viewpoints, you can free your mind from the inflexible bureaucratic organizational concepts developed for the early 1900s and adopted wholesale from the 1950s to the 1980s. You can find new ways to demonstrate how loss prevention, personnel security, safety, asset protection, access control, and all the other functions lumped together under the term "security" are interlinked with every facility, function, and activity in the organization.

Viewed this way, security becomes an integral part of everything instead of a separate box fighting for the same shrinking budget. Substitute the generic terms used in this article with those specific to your own organization.

If we free our minds from stilted and unimaginative charts and boxes, perhaps we can lead security into the 21st century with even more respect and understanding from our nonsecurity colleagues. We can surely give them a new view of the elephant and open a more productive dialogue.

PHOTO : Exhibit 1 Security as Found on a Conventional Organization Chart

PHOTO : Exhibit 2 Security as a Facilities/Location Model

PHOTO : Exhibit 3 Security as a Departmental Partner

PHOTO : Exhibit 4 Security as Seen in Regard to Activities

Clifford E. Simonsen, CPP, PhD, is president of Criminology Consultants International in Edmonds, WA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Seminar Issue; freeing security from bureaucracy
Author:Simonsen, Clifford E.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:1384
Previous Article:The task of terminating.
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