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How security and quality go hand in hand.

QUALITY ASSURANCE, ZERO defects, total quality management ... although different terms are used by different businesses, all refer to a management technique called the quality improvement process.

Quality, as it relates to business management, was introduced by Dr. Edwards Deming in the early 1950s when he was recruited by Japanese businesses to assist in the development of competitive products and services as part of an effort to bring about a post-World War II economic recovery. Over the years his ideas have gradually been embraced by American business. In 1990 alone more than 175,000 companies expressed interest in the quality process by requesting application guidelines for the Malcolm Baldridge Award for quality in American business.

For security departments, an organization's shift in philosophy to the quality process can seem at best confusing and at worst a threat to the status quo. However, security managers who understand and support the quality improvement process will not only survive but thrive. Learning to manage change, instead of letting it manage you, is the key.

At Marriott Hotels, Resorts and Suites, where the total quality management process began in 1989, areas of possible conflict and concern arose initially. As the process unfolded, not only were ways found to deal with the potential conflicts, but methods were discovered by which security departments could actually improve their service delivery and value to the corporation.

One of the tenets of the quality improvement process is that dedication to quality must be universal within the business. Everyone must be involved in the process. Because of their intensive customer contact, security personnel must be at the forefront of the quality process.

To attain this position, areas of potential conflict must be identified and resolved. At Marriott, the following potential conflicts were identified:

* empowerment vs. controls

* downsizing and flattening an organization vs. maintaining adequate level of care

* total customer satisfaction vs. cost control

* barriers between departments

In their role as policy enforcers, security departments are often challenged by so-called paradigms-inflexible patterns of behavior. The quality improvement process requires a "paradigm shift"-a willingness to discard preconceived notions about how things are supposed to be.

Empowerment vs. controls. Quite possibly, empowerment will be the first conflict a security department encounters in the quality improvement process. A common misconception is that empowerment gives employees the ability to override rules and regulations. Empowerment, in fact, is the process of extending-to employees who are closest to the customer-the authority and resources to make decisions that will continually improve service.

Once empowered, a frontline customer service employee does not have to go through several levels of authority to make a decision that will significantly improve service to a particular customer, provided certain guidelines are followed. Herein lies the solution to the potential conflict: Establish guidelines and set boundaries before acting. In making decisions, any organization must balance legal and liability concerns with other variables that constitute empowerment.

Establishing this balance may require sophisticated judgment on the part of line employees. Therefore, it is imperative they be taught that being empowered does not mean an employee is given unlimited freedom to act; rather it means an employee is free to act within clearly established limits.

Downsizing and flattening the organization vs. maintaining adequate level of care. Another goal of the quality improvement process is to remove any barriers that inhibit improving products or services. One barrier that will most likely be identified is having excessive layers of management. Vertical organizations can inhibit the process of getting decision-making power down to the line employee. Under the new quality organization, middle managers-formerly the decision makers-may be less necessary.

Flattening the organization is a common outcome of a quality improvement process; downsizing and decentralization often follow. Any form of restructuring can pose a challenge to an organization's security function. Since security departments are usually cost centers and not profit centers, they are often among the first to undergo downsizing. That reduction may produce a conflict: maintaining control and an adequate level of care for your customers' safety and security while reducing staffing levels.

One solution may lie in disseminating the responsibility for security and assets protection to all management, or even to all employees. The concept of security being everyone's job is not a new one.

Another solution may involve substituting equipment for personnel. For example, if access points can be monitored by alarms, CCTV, or access control devices, the need for stationary guard posts may be eliminated. At Marriott, some properties have adopted loss prevention committees responsible for assets protection and security as well as for accident prevention.

Since downsizing is a reality in the business world of the 1990s, careful planning and creative thinking are essential if an adequate level of care is to be maintained.

Total customer satisfaction vs. cost control. One of the cornerstones of total quality management is doing whatever it takes to create satisfied customers or defect-free products. Generally, potential for conflict exists when ultimate customer satisfaction is weighed against cost control. Regarding security departments, potential conflict may arise when making a decision to compensate a customer if property loss or damage occurs but there is no legal liability on the part of the organization.

In this case, the goal of total customer satisfaction may dictate the need to go outside the boundaries of legal liability and compensate the customer based solely on meeting his or her satisfaction requirements. Total quality management teaches us that the cost of replacing a lost customer is many times the cost of retaining an existing one. Therefore, the most cost-effective decision might be making a courtesy payment for the loss or damage.

A natural reaction on the part of the security department is to regard such a compensation practice as "giving away the store." A delicate balance needs to be struck between weeding out fraudulent or erroneous claims and making the customer happy. At Marriott, the loss prevention department is developing a three-way communication with the office of consumer affairs and the claims management department to minimize losses from questionable claims and to maximize customer satisfaction.

Existing barriers between departments. In many corporations, the vertical organization structure creates barriers that can restrict movement of new ideas and hamper the elimination of paradigms. Hierarchies are formed and barriers grow in an effort to protect particular departments.

Unfortunately, security departments are occasionally part of this system, perpetuating the lack of teamwork and isolation of individual departments. In extreme cases, the goals of departments may actually conflict with one another, creating an atmosphere of tension and nonproductiveness.

Under the quality improvement process, objectives and goals call for cross-functional efforts that can move horizontally across the organization, rather than up and down the vertical hierarchy.

This horizontal movement allows for more timely and free-flowing exchanges of ideas. Department managers generally and security managers specifically tend to place priority on the function of their own departments rather than on the broader goals of the organization. To deal with this potential conflict, Marriott's total quality management attempts to bring departments together in the planning stage of new ideas and changes. In the belief that everyone must be involved in this process, the loss prevention department has been given a voice in forming decisions.

Conversely, if a security policy needs to be developed or modified, this system can be used to gamer support across the organization. Obviously, this process brings about greater support than the "from the top down" method of policy-making and leads to an improved overall security effort.

Within Marriott Hotels, one concept that has become increasingly popular is the creation of a guest relations position. The person with this job has the power to move across departmental lines to resolve issues relating to customer satisfaction. Potential conflict at this level is avoided by allowing existing barriers to be removed for the common goal of total customer satisfaction. Another example of barrier breaking occurred at a Texas hotel where security officers were cross-trained to work at the front desk for deployment in times of heavy check-in or check-out.

FORTUNATELY, SOME INHERENT COMMON ground exists between the security effort and the quality improvement process-areas of harmony in which the goals or functions can merge for the sake of total quality management.

At Marriott, the following areas of harmony have begun to surface between security and the quality process:

* both have the prevention of problems as a primary objective

* both value mobility-security patrols equal "management by walking around" (MBWA)

* measurement plays a critical role in both quality and security

* quality's problem-solving process is similar to security's investigation procedures

The security manager of a company involved in a quality improvement process can capitalize on these areas of harmony and ensure that the security function is an integral part of the new system. Additionally, security staff morale can be raised through the teaching of common goals and by encouraging staff members to take part in quality teams, sharing rallies, and the quality suggestion program.

Prevention is a primary objective. Progressive security departments focus the majority of their efforts on preventing problems, such as crime, vandalism, and injury. Likewise, the quality improvement process has a primary objective of preventing problems (a process called error-cause removal). The goal of error-cause removal is to locate the true source of a problem and prevent its recurrence.

Because of the nature and mobility of their jobs, security officers are in an ideal position to assist the quality effort in ferreting out problem sources and making suggestions for rectifying them. At Marriott, this area of common ground has even provided a vehicle for career growth by allowing security staff members to move into guest relations management positions.

Mobility equals MBWA. It has been said that a good manager doesn't manage from the office; he or she manages by walking around and observing and then acting on those observations. This formula is particularly effective for security, which is actively engaged in a form of MBWA through its patrol rounds.

Both security and the manager involved in the quality improvement process have a mandate to be proactive-aggressively searching, observing, and taking action to remedy any problems found. Often, managers avoid this mobility because they fear they will discover bad news. Managers should learn to expect trouble and be prepared to resolve problems. A manager's effectiveness is diminished when he or she is the last to be aware of problems. Likewise, a security staff that is not involved in seeking out problems is not truly in touch with the organization and will ultimately regress into a purely reactive mode.

Measurements play a critical role. Anyone who has worked in the security or loss prevention field recognizes the need for accurate measurements in order to effectively deploy staff as well as to justify staffing levels. Similarly, the quality process relies on measurements as a major source of determining improvement levels. Loss prevention departments typically measure their preventive efforts through charting reduction in crime, damage to property, or numbers of injuries, while the quality process tends to measure reductions in defective products and services or the cost of nonconformance to a particular standard of quality.

Since 1976, when the company became self-insured, Marriott Hotels, Resorts and Suites has measured success in terms of the reduction of security incidents, accident frequency, and loss rate (losses as a percent of sales). Charting these successes has created a high level of awareness among our hotels regarding the importance of preventing losses. In fact, the manager responsible for the development of these loss prevention measures now heads up the total quality management process for Marriott. His ability to measure success and his understanding of its importance were clearly factors in that promotion.

Quality's problem-solving process relates to security's investigative techniques. Total quality management generates process-oriented thinking rather than results-oriented thinking. Process-oriented management teaches us that if we get the details right, the intended results will follow.

In the security profession, effective investigations generally involve process-oriented thinking; fact gathering is as essential to the security investigator as it is to the quality manager. Background information, observations by others, historical data, and the ability to see through the eyes of others are as important in identifying and analyzing problems in the quality process as in preparing a security investigation.

A final skill, which is legendary in the history of crime solving, is "thinking outside the box." Any manager or investigator must be willing to free his or her mind to consider any and all possibilities that may solve a given problem. Organizations must therefore encourage process-oriented thinking in both total quality management and security investigations.

Times are changing in institutions and businesses all across the country-the quality improvement process is becoming a way of life in most sectors of corporate America. Inevitably, the role of the security function will evolve in the process, and security managers who are willing to seize the opportunity to become involved will prosper. The degree of flexibility of a security department could well determine its destiny.

These times will require leadership, especially the ability to effectively manage change. Nonetheless, managing change can be a stressful and aggravating experience to those who are unable to adapt. Security managers who are inclined to empower their staffs and take on new responsibilities will find their role more complex.

However, these times of transition and change also provide many opportunities for those able to adapt. If we are ready and willing, security can walk hand in hand into the future with the quality improvement process.

The Suitcase Syndrome

Some time ago a former supervisor told me about a surefire method he had for handling problems or assignments given to him. I've come to call it the Suitcase Syndrome, and it works something like this: When you're given an unwanted assignment or faced with an especially difficult problem, look at it as if it were a ticking suitcase and hand it to someone else.

This survivalist attitude toward problem solving may have been acceptable in the days of dynasty-building corporations, politically motivated police agencies, and antiquated security organizations. However, in today's demanding security arena it has no value.

Security professionals cannot bury their heads in the sand or ignore serious policy issues and hope they will evaporate. Long-term demands and changing priorities require the agility of a gymnast more than the bull-like strength of a longshoreman.

How can you develop the necessary skills to confront these demands, maintain your professionalism, and keep your sense of humor? Perhaps these suggestions will be of some value:

Maintain confidence in yourself. Don't be afraid to open that suitcase and confront the problem or difficult assignment. Instead of a ticking bomb, you may find an opportunity to excel.

A word of warning though-when you solve the problem or complete the assignment, keep it low-key. The person who handed you the suitcase may not be happy with a successful result. Make the success itself your reward.

Keep current on the latest trends and information. Don't hide in your office or become a shadow. Keep up with your reading. Discussing current security trends with subordinates and other security professionals can keep you on track in the event of a sudden demand for your skills. Above all, be visible ! Don't rely too much on your network for support. There are still a lot of "bag handlers" out there who will distance themselves from you the minute they sense you need help. They may also pay you the ultimate compliment and ignore you.

Develop a strong support unit. It's dangerous to operate in a vacuum. Don't be afraid to ask for help from subordinates and others. It's all right to share the problem as long as you share the credit for a successful resolution. However, be willing to accept the blame if the suitcase blows up.

Be ready for the slings and arrows. Remember, your willingness to accept difficult assignments may sometimes be viewed by others as a threat. At some point, you may find yourself coming to grips with a major career decision. Do you continue to face difficult challenges or do you get in the baggage line?

If you decide to step out of the line and redirect your energies, be prepared for some interesting side effects. You may find yourself feeling somewhat like the kid in school who gets caught chewing gum in class. All the other kids swallow theirs, and you wear yours on your nose. This is where a sense of humor can be handy.

It has been my experience that a growing number of security people are more interested in problem solving than buck-passing. Although it may not seem so at the time, your abilities probably have not gone unnoticed, and you will soon be back in demand.

Developing an attitude based on flexibility and a willingness to face the unknown ultimately enhances your security skills as well as your quality of life. Stepping laterally or retrograding into another position temporarily may be just the thing to help you gain a new perspective.

During this time, if someone hands you a suitcase, open it! It may contain the chance of a lifetime.
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.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related article; using quality improvement methods in security departments
Author:Callaghan, Chad; Zaleski, John E.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Words:2846
Previous Article:What good supervisors are made of.
Next Article:How to succeed by really trying - the sequel.
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