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Security managers in the 1990s: generalists or specialists?

A NUMBER OF BROAD trends are operating in the business community. These "megatrends" are changing the structure of organizations, their commercial orientation, and the nature of the management challenge. A move from specialist functional management toward general management, together with the concept of the "superteam," have implications for security managers that they need to respond to positively.

The succeeding eras of business activity can be identified from one another b certain characteristics. dominance of the manufacturing industry in this country following World War II and its gradual and then rapid decline in favor of a service dominated economy can be readily distinguished.

In the past people believed that the economies of scale and the enormous purchasing power and market dominance achievable through creating huge, centrally controlled combines was the surest way to business success. Now, however, more people are aware of the advantage that can accrue to the entrepreneur and from niche marketing.

If the pattern of business organization and, consequently, the nature of the management tasks are constantly evolving and adapting, what are the current trends and implications for the security profession?

Consider these six trends:

The move from centralism to devolution. Many large industrial and commercial conglomerates are still around, not just in the United Kingdom but throughout the industrial world. Yet, almost everywhere is an abandonment of close and detailed central control in favor of the devolution of responsibility for business success down to the individual business unit.

For example, in the brewing industry, prime responsibility for setting and meeting business targets now commonly rests with the unit managers in charge of the production business (the brewing process itself), the retail business (the public houses), the off-sales business (product sales to supermarkets and off-licenses), the hotel business, and so on.

Also, the banking industry has adapted to the challenge to the traditional business from building societies and other financial institutions by acquiring and diversifying into a wide range of nontraditional business services.

Estate agencies, mortgage facilities, insurance brokers, stock brokers, and credit card companies all now reinforce the core businesses of personal and corporate banking-and all will have devolved, unit business managers in charge.

In most cases, certain services may still be available at the group level, and headquarters also retains responsibility for overall corporate strategy. But operations at the center are increasingly pared down and exert a diminished influence.

* The move from product orientation toward customer orientation. More emphasis now than ever is on marketing-discovering what the customer needs and then satisfying that need. The impetus provided by, for example, Tom Peters' In Search of Excellence and the range of total quality programs in place have reinforced this awareness of the customer.

What they have also done is to expand the concept of the customer to include not just people outside the organization but also those in it-a factor that is not without significance for the security professional.

* The move out of a period of stability into one of discontinuity. This is characterized by the constant challenge to the concept that the old ways are the best. The challenge comes from an increasingly short product life and the intensification of competition in the marketplace by customer-led demands for better and cheaper products and by the flux and tensions these problems create in organizations and between employees as they respond.

A number of implications exist for security. Among the most important are the requirements to be flexible and adaptable in the face of such rapid change and the critical need to protect proprietary information.

* The move toward a more proactive strategy. This topic affects the way both organizations and managers behave, though it is easier to identify the impact on the individual.

It is not uncommon to hear of companies prompted into a particular action as a response to perceived threats to their business. Increasingly, however, they are adopting a much more proactive strategy and, consequently, place less emphasis on reacting to events in the marketplace. It is a move away from tactics in favor of strategy.

The parallel change for the individual manager-and it is a particularly important one for security-is a demand for a more proactive approach to management than formerly required. This may seem to be a particularly difficult change for security professionals to achieve because senior managers traditionally have placed great emphasis on their role as investigators and catchers of villains-as reacters to criminal behavior.

However, it is vital that the profession aligns itself with this trend and gives priority to corporate risk assessment that allows it to plan a proactive response to the needs of the business.

* The move toward emphasizing general management. The move from a tight central control in favor of a more devolved structure gives more power and responsibility to the business unit manager. Organizationally, this results in a devaluation of the importance previously placed on administration, particularly where this was synonymous with headquarters.

Administration traditionally embraced a range of specialist services, including security, that were available on request. Now, after devolution, the emphasis is placed on general management-running the whole business unit as a self-contained entity.

In these changed circumstances, the role of and, indeed, the need for the central service functions is often subjected to close scrutiny from two quarters. Certainly, they will be considered by management boards, which are well aware of the need to control overhead.

Additionally, the business unit managers are likely to resist any attempt to allocate to them a recovery charge for any service where control lies outside their personal jurisdiction. As an expensive service function from which it is difficult to prove a direct financial benefit, security is especially vulnerable.

* The move from functionalism to generalism. The final, linked change affects the nature of the management of businesses. It is a move from functionalism to generalism, that is, a move from an organizational structure comprising many functional specialists to one in which every manager is encouraged to take on general responsibility for all aspects of the business for which he or she has been delegated control.

This trend has occurred as a direct consequence of the decline in influence of the corporate headquarters and the corresponding rise of the business unit manager.

The implications for the specialist security manager are serious but need not be disastrous. Clearly, he or she should identify the ways in which the changes described are implemented in his or her own organization so he or she can adapt the service provided to the changing business emphasis.

The move from a product-oriented business to one centered on the customer is significant for the security professional. To survive-and indeed thrive-in this changed business environment, the security manager must first identify precisely who his or her important customers are in the organization and then make sure he or she tailors the range of services to the business needs of those customers.

It may no longer be wise to rely on the continued omnipotence of corporate headquarters to support the security role. On the contrary, a proactive approach offering help and support to the managers of the business units may well preempt those difficult questions about the nature and scale of the corporate overhead.

SIX AREAS OF CHANGE FOR BUSINESSES have been identified here, and some of the implications these hold for security have been noted. Preeminent among these changes is the move from a functionalist or specialist management organization to one that emphasizes general management skills.

Four dimensions of general management also should be noted. By doing so, security managers will recognize aspects of management practice that they can adapt to their situations.

Through identifying the factors that form and condition the way general managers fulfill their tasks, the security manager will become better equipped to deliver a service precisely attuned to their needs.

The four dimensions to consider are strategic, proactive, managerial, and political.

* Strategic dimension. The first of these relates the organization's resources and capabilities to the environment and markets in which it operates. As such, it is concerned with the longterm development of the organization as a whole and attempts to anticipate and shape developments rather than react to them.

It looks at the organization from the point of view of the key stakeholders in the business. In most trading organizations these include the shareholders, naturally, but might also embrace the banks that have provided loans, the suppliers, the customers, and the employees.

Remembering the trend from stability toward discontinuity, the strategic dimension of management will also be with providing leadership in times of change, striving to obtain a competitive advantage, and setting and communicating objectives and plans for the business.

* Proactive dimension. The proactive dimension covers those forces that seek out opportunities, overcome restraints, and turn negatives into positives.

* Proactive management also embraces two qualities that are not always immediately obvious. The first is an ability to manage upward and laterally as well as down. This is the ability, in other words, to sell a vision of one's solutions to superiors and colleagues as well as manage the staff for whom that person is responsible.

The second quality involves understanding and using power for the greater good of the organization. Most managers have some personal power, but this may not be enough to ensure that their objectives are achieved.

Identifying and tapping into other sources of power, for instance, by persuading the owners of that power that they share a mutual interest with that individual, is one way of enhancing an individual's range of influence in the organization.

Managerial dimension. The third feature of general management is the managerial dimension. Two aspects of this exist: the hard and the soft dimensions.

Most of the time, especially during periods of trading difficulty, such as that in which most managers are now operating, it is the hard dimension that management emphasizes.

The hard dimension is concerned with setting clear objectives; adopting appropriate structures; ensuring clear accountability; implementing effective systems with good controls; and emphasizing the need for corporate and individual effectiveness, efficiency, and economy.

It is unfortunate that the management of so many organizations tend in difficult times to overlook the positive benefits obtainable from emphasizing the soft dimension. The soft dimension is more concerned with managing the culture of the organization and does this by gaining and maintaining the commitment of the employees by enhancing team spirit and managing performance in a firm but fair way.

* Political dimension. The fourth and final aspect is the political dimension, not referring just to office politics, which has an immediately recognizable connotation. In part, this article has already touched on this particular dimension when discussing the benefits of understanding the sources of power in organizations.

Understanding the difference between power and authority is important. The security manager might have the authority, but the humble security officer has the power, especially when he or she is asked to work overtime on his or her weekend off to cover for a sick colleague.

The political dimension has more to do with the exercise of political skills, in negotiating upward, laterally, and downward, and by doing so, seeking to create a win/win resolution, rather than a win/lose resolution.

A win/win resolution allows both parties to invest their efforts in making the solution work. This must be a desirable outcome, one that will enhance team spirit and promote the soft dimension of management.

THE CONCEPT OF THE SUPERTEAM IS ALSO a vital adjunct to many of the issues discussed here. It has as much relevance to the security manager as it has to the general manager.

The superteam consists of four parties:

* the sponsor (or boss),

* the team itself,

* the client (for example, internal and external suppliers of goods or services), and

* the customer (both inside and outside the organization). (See the chart.)

The concept openly acknowledges the importance of two parties conventionally regarded as outsiders to and an influence on the team.

By including people who supply the team (with information, services, materials, work-in-progress) and those to whom the team in turn supplies a service, the superteam concept demonstrates a strong orientation toward the task. This helps the team leader concentrate on team-building activities.

The concept also provides an appropriate response to the current business concern to reorientate from products and toward customers.

An important application of this concept for the security function exists. Clearly, if this concept of internal clients and customers of security were actively adopted, it would help attune the security function to the changing business climate as well as ensure that the service provided addressed the real needs of the business.

As one of the more vulnerable service functions operating during difficult times for almost everyone, security cannot afford to ignore the significant changes that are occurring all around.

This paper was presented at the Fall Conference of the ASIS Europe Chapter.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hearnden, Keith
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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