Facilitating Creative Thinking
MANAGERS OFTEN SHY AWAY from scrapping old procedures and starting anew because reinventing the wheel is deemed time-consuming, costly, and rarely effective. However, following this conventional wisdom is not always the best course. When starting a new project, it is sometimes helpful to take advantage of the opportunity to at least consider implementing new security procedures.
It’s possible that looking with an open mind at how to secure a facility without imposing the existing regimen could yield improvements. To ensure that a new problem gets a fresh look, managers may find value in assembling a team that is comprised of people from a variety of backgrounds and with team members who are not contaminated by old ideas. I took this approach in preparing to open a new property in the hospitality industry and found the results well worth the effort.
Solutions in one discipline often come from other fields. Security managers should, therefore, not limit their brainstorming team to access control professionals or to security generally when seeking new ideas. Instead, they should reach out to nonsecurity employees if possible and involve them in the process. In addition to gaining great ideas, managers might also reap the benefits of instilling a deeper understanding of basic security issues in the nonsecurity employees who participate in the process.
In coming up with ideas for access control procedures in the new property, I involved managers and line employees in charge of certain tasks. For example, those involved in valet parking were consulted when developing the plans for securing guest and patron vehicles. Similarly, when looking to secure the path of travel for incoming mail and goods, managers brought in personnel who worked in shipping and receiving. As unbiased observers, they provided insight, such as a new routing procedure for packages.
In addition to engaging workers from other disciplines, managers should draw in people whose work will bring them into contact with the situation being assessed, such as workers who might use the particular aspect of the facility being secured. It is not uncommon for solutions to come from users. For example, when designing a new security gate and entry process, the author brought in truck drivers as well as security officers.
After choosing the employees who will make up the project team, managers must determine what tools and resources they should be given to make their decisions. The author decided to provide the team with an overview of the problem but not the common solutions. Because the group was a mix of security and nonsecurity personnel, participants knowledgeable in the field would provide the relevant background, while persons unexposed to standard operating procedures would bring fresh ideas to the table.
If the team explored a range of ideas—including traditional solutions and new concepts—and ultimately chose the approach already being used by the company at other locations, then that approach would have been validated, and senior managers would know that other options were explored. However, by being open-ended, the process offered the maximum potential for finding a better approach if such an option existed.
In looking at a companywide technology project, the team came up with some new ideas that deviated from existing policy. One was that security could transfer some duties to nonsecurity personnel.
In this company’s other properties, loss prevention staff handled call response, patrols, and similar security tasks, all of which required training and experience. However, loss prevention also dealt with a wide range of other duties, such as checking on nonsecurity equipment. The team suggested that these tasks could be completed by other employees who could then provide a report to security.
The team also identified some upgrading of equipment to improve communications and further streamline staffing. This included integrating access control, CCTV, and life-safety functions. The changes constituted the core of a program to enhance the tools available to security officers on duty and improve response time while streamlining the staffing model. One function specifically requested by the team allows transmission of alarm information to a handheld device, enabling the officers to have more mobility while providing unified access to the previously separate equipment.
By taking a step back and initiating a fresh look at the issues, the team developed a program that, despite a high initial outlay, paid for itself in six months and continues to provide savings when compared to the prior staffing model.
By starting from scratch from time to time, I have been able to improve security processes. In the future, I plan to take the experiment a step further. In addition to starting fresh and pulling in those involved in the process, as well as those initially unfamiliar with it, I plan to provide them only the financial limitations and let the rest be discovered anew. For example, I plan to let the team know what the project return on investment must be. However, all other issues will be left for the team to discover. I believe that taking this approach will give them all a chance to get to know the issue without assumptions of possible solutions. The result of this experiment should be a more creative solution.
Michael Stroberger, CPP, is a director of loss prevention and corporate crisis coordinator for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC. He has held leadership positions in the security industry since the 1980s. Stroberger sits on the board of directors for the International Foundation for Protection Officers and is that organization’s current treasurer/secretary. He is also a member of ASIS International.