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The Art of War for Security Managers: 10 Steps to Enhancing Organizational Effectiveness

The Art of War for Security Managers: 10 Steps to Enhancing Organizational Effectiveness

by Scott Watson

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The classic book The Art of War (or as it is sometimes translated, The Art of Strategy) by Sun Tzu is often used to illustrate principles that can apply to the management of business environments. The Art of War for Security Managers is the first book to apply the time-honored principles of Sun Tzu’s theories of conflict to contemporary


The classic book The Art of War (or as it is sometimes translated, The Art of Strategy) by Sun Tzu is often used to illustrate principles that can apply to the management of business environments. The Art of War for Security Managers is the first book to apply the time-honored principles of Sun Tzu’s theories of conflict to contemporary organizational security.

Corporate leaders have a responsibility to make rational choices that maximize return on investment. The author posits that while conflict is inevitable, it need not be costly. The result is an efficient framework for understanding and dealing with conflict while minimizing costly protracted battles, focusing specifically on the crucial tasks a security manager must carry out in a 21st century organization.

* Includes an appendix with job aids the security manager can use in day-to-day workplace situations
* Provides readers with a framework for adapting Sun Tzu's theories of conflict within their own organizations
* From an author who routinely packs the room at his conference presentations

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Watson divides his application of Sun Tzu into ten basic areas, demonstrating how to reapply advice origianlly intended for Chinese generals of antiquity."

"Security professionals who aspire to leadership roles will find much to consider in The Art of War for Security Managers."

Security Management, Brent Campbell

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Elsevier Science
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The Art of War for Security Managers

10 Steps to Enhancing Organizational Effectiveness
By Scott A. Watson


Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-052201-2

Chapter One

Introduction to The Art of War

For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. Sun Tzu

Executive Summary

The Art of War was written by the famed Chinese warrior-philosopher, Sun Tzu, some 2500 years ago. Fittingly, Sun Tzu's original Art of War is a masterpiece of efficiency. This relatively small volume outlines the strategic precepts of war-fighting with such brevity and clarity that the work has become part of the classic canon of military science. Nonetheless, the concepts elucidated in The Art of War are not limited to the realm of military affairs. Over the years, numerous business writers and managers, as well as politicians, civilian martial artists, and police personnel, have applied Sun Tzu's principles to their own organizations with great success.

This chapter provides an overview of the original The Art of War, as well as a preview of the concepts found in this current work. The Art of War for Security Managers is applied to today's security professional and recommends 10 steps that will enhance organizational effectiveness:

The 10 steps are summarized as follows:

1. Continually develop and exercise leadership.

2. Accept that conflict is both inevitable and necessary.

3. Endeavor to understand your own behavior and that of your adversary.

4. Assess your situation.

5. Keep the mission in focus.

6. Strike when the odds of success are the best.

7. Be able to change positions quickly in order to gain the advantage.

8. Adapt to change.

9. Don't be predictable.

10. Continually collect, analyze, and apply information.

Today's Threat Environment

Today's security managers face a universe of risks and vulnerabilities. The events of the last few years have clearly shown how an individual or a small group can wreak havoc on the very institutions we have pledged to protect. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and March 11, 2004, taught us that our enemies are operationally sophisticated, well-funded, and that they possess a global reach. They prefer soft targets with high shock value and have been rewarded for their efforts with worldwide recognition and influence. Similarly, school shooters have shown us that one does not need to be highly trained to execute a devastating attack on our most precious natural resources. The Washington, D.C., snipers illustrated how two people could tie up several local police departments and federal agencies for weeks. The anthrax cases and countless numbers of subsequent white powder incidents taught us not only about the vulnerability of mailrooms to biological attack but about the vulnerability of our citizens to psychological terrorism.

Unfortunately, these issues are only the tip of the iceberg. Today's security professionals must still be prepared to deal with traditional security issues such as internal theft and fraud, robbery, workplace violence, domestic violence, stalking, extortion attempts, protesters, natural disasters, and computer crimes. Internally, the security manager must also compete with other departments for his or her share of the budget and other resources necessary to carry out the mission. Paradoxically, as the threats have increased, the resources necessary to prevent and respond to these incidents have not. As security managers, we must be prepared to deal with all of these issues, and we must be prepared to do so in a manner that is more dispassionate, calculating, and, yes, at times even more "ruthless" than that of our enemies.

While we are duty bound to pursue the war on crime, terrorism, and other forms of social disorder, we must start at the beginning. To do otherwise is to be diverted from an understanding of our most formidable adversaries. The security manager must recognize that the most dangerous enemies are those who dwell both within our own organizations and within us.

Enemy #1: Emotionalism

History is full of last-ditch stands against "impossible odds." While these often-dramatic accounts are widely hailed as testimonies of true leadership, they are, in fact, cautionary tales of ineptness. In the West, we seem to be particularly enamored of the lone hero who goes down fighting against impossible odds. We see this theme in movies, read about it in books, and, if we are truthful, we'll admit that we wonder how we would measure up in such a situation. This almost universal desire to be a hero is dangerous because it is most often based on raw emotion and ego. As with other desires based exclusively on emotionalism, the end results are ruined relationships, wasted resources, and destruction.

The fact is, leaders have a responsibility to make rational choices to maximize return on investment. While conflict is inevitable, it needn't be costly. Difficulties will arise in our personal and professional lives. National and international crises will continue to mount. We may not have control over when these challenges arise, but we do have control over how we respond to them. If we choose to take a thoughtful approach, we can attain victory while limiting losses. If we choose to be ruled by our emotions, we will be defeated and lose everything. Conflict is, therefore, to be accepted as part and parcel of life.

Enemy #2: The Environment

The operational environment in which we find ourselves is never completely within our control. As security managers, we must understand that we must simply accept and deal with certain things. Complaining doesn't help, and attempting to wish our problems away is a waste of resources. Operational factors beyond our control may include our current staffing and budget levels, business decisions made by senior management, and government mandates, to name a few.

Successful security managers will constantly assess the operational environment in which they find themselves. Elements of this environment will include the type of organization and its mission. Is the firm in the manufacturing business, banking industry, or high-tech electronics? As the saying goes, form follows function. The form of the organization will drive the operational environment.

What leadership style is expressed from the top down? Does the organization have tight command and control, or is there a more democratic form of governance present? Are employees free to make suggestions and take risks, or are these behaviors discouraged or punished?

How is the market behaving toward your industry? Are you in an economic slump where capital projects have been frozen and employees who leave aren't being replaced? Is business booming? Either of these extremes and everything in between will have an effect on whether the security manager can make his or her move immediately or be required to bide his or her time.

What about morale? Are employees generally happy to work at the firm, or is there resentment? For the security manager, employee resentment can especially be a significant problem. Finally, what about the organization's history? Every organization has a history, both official and unofficial. Does the history of your organization suggest a certain pattern to how problems are solved? What does this say to you as the security manager? All of these factors need to be addressed when reviewing the operational environment.

Enemy #3: Unrealistic Expectations of Oneself

Just as successful security managers must constantly assess the operational environment, so, too, must they assess themselves and their department. Unrealistic expectations can result in missed opportunities, unnecessary conflicts, and a loss of resources. Successful security managers will constantly assess how they and their department fit into the overall mission of the organization. They will inventory the amount and quality of the resources at their disposal. They will realistically assess their liabilities, determine who their natural allies are, and earnestly seek to gage how much influence they actually have within the organization. Brutal honesty is of paramount importance. The security manager who understands his or her capabilities and limitations will be better suited to make dispassionate decisions.

Enemy #4: Lack of Understanding

Security managers must endeavor to know their adversaries as well as they understand themselves and their department. Traditional adversaries of the security manager include criminals, hostile competitors, terrorists, and activists who seek to disrupt the day-to-day operations of the firm.

Beyond these traditional adversaries, the security manager also has internal adversaries. Internal adversaries may include unethical personnel who seek to cheat the company or violate company policies, unethical contractors who seek to defraud the firm, lax attitudes on the part of employees, supervisors, and even some members of management, and, of course, internal competitors seeking the same limited resources as the security department. While the specific tactics utilized to deal with each of these adversaries will differ considerably, the overall strategic concerns are remarkably similar.

Successful security managers will be those who successfully identify their adversaries. Once identified, security managers will assess the enemy's mission, resources, liabilities, and natural allies. In so doing, they should be able to ascertain potential areas of conflict before they arise and thus avoid areas where they and their department are weak and instead play to their strengths.

Enemy #5: Ineffective Organizational Structures

Weak organizational structures and overreliance on individuals is dangerous. The manager who allows efficiency to suffer in the name of a favorite structure will eventually see his or her department disintegrate into chaos. Similarly, placing one's faith in a lone superstar will often lead to disappointment. Superstars don't make superstar teams. Superstar teams are made up of individuals who work together for the greater good of the group. The successful security manager recognizes this and structures his or her department to reflect and support the overall mission of the organization.

This mission-oriented functionality ensures that managers can adapt to new situations quickly and bring the unified momentum of their team to the objective.

Enemy #6: Lack of Leadership

A team that lacks leadership is a team doomed to failure. Managers who are timid, disorganized, or unrealistic fail to inspire those under their command. This failure leads to inaction and confusion among the employees. On the other hand, managers who are forceful, lack compassion, or are unethical, breed resentment within their own department.

Successful security managers will set clear expectations because they know that employees generally do what is expected of them. They will set a clear vision of both the department's and overall organization's mission. Above all, successful managers will treat their employees with humane and ethical leadership. As a result, the team members will believe they have a stake in the system and will willingly follow the manager, even during times of crisis.

Enemy #7: Poor Timing

Poor timing can result in disaster. Security managers who fail to act on information in a timely manner or act too early are likely to either forfeit opportunities to prevent incidents or tip off their adversaries that they are ready to act. Either way results in losses for the organization as a whole. Successful security managers time their actions for a maximum return on investment.

Enemy #8: Poor Execution

Even if the timing is perfect, the security manager can fail to execute plans properly. Managers who are involved in constant overt struggles with internal or external adversaries will soon find themselves and their departments to be wasted of resources. As a general rule, it is better to keep the department's resources intact and spend sparingly than to draw a line in the sand and fight to the death.

Security managers who fail to heed this concept will find themselves a burden to the organization they have pledged to protect. Choosing one's battles is a far more judicious and effective use of resources.

Enemy #9: Predictability

The security department that continually does everything by a rote pattern allows its adversaries to gain an advantage. Successful security managers will ensure that their department changes patrol routes, times, audits, and procedures to throw off potential enemies. The more predictable an organization is, the more vulnerable it is to attack.


Excerpted from The Art of War for Security Managers by Scott A. Watson Copyright © 2007 by Elsevier Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Butterworth-Heinemann. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Scott Watson is the Principal Consultant and CEO of S.A. Watson & Associates L.L.C., a risk management firm specializing in the areas of organizational security and crisis management. Mr. Watson has held a variety of risk management and corporate security positions at such firms as TD Banknorth, Liberty Mutual, Fidelity Investments, Pinkerton Security & Investigations, Boston University and First Security Services Corporation. He holds a Masters of Criminal Justice Administration from Boston University and a Masters of Education from the University of Massachusetts. He is a Certified Protection Professional, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a frequent speaker at professional conferences. Mr. Watson currently teaches Security Management at Boston University’s Center for Professional Education and has previously taught online courses for American Military University. He is a member of ASIS International, where he serves as the Vice Chairman of Crisis Management and Business Continuity Council as well as a member of the School Violence Task Force. He is also a member of The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and the New England Disaster Recovery Information Exchange.

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