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The Secret to Having a Well-Managed Security Function

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Article 1 of 12 in an article series titled Winning with a Highly Manageable Functional Area

By Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III

This secret is for the security directors and managers. However, it also applies also to anyone directly managing any functional area in an organization.

Common Advice

There is much advice to be found about having a well-managed functional area. Most of them could be classified as principles, strategies and tactics relating to good management and leadership. Many of these, rightly so, focus specifically on improving the area’s manager, and changing his or her approach to leading or managing.

That is why they work only up to a point, and why the relief and benefit that the often-overworked manager receives lasts only so long. There is a hidden assumption that underlies these approaches. Their long-term success almost always requires a condition that rarely exists. The condition is not a prerequisite to initial improvement, but is always a requirement for sustained success.

The Trouble with Most Improve-the-Manager Approaches

At one point or another, all managers collide with this one fact:

Ultimately, to have a sustainable well-managed functional area requires that the area itself be highly manageable. It requires that the area is organized in a way that it can sustain itself, and that each part of it can manage itself, allowing the area to be led and managed without overburdening its manager.

That’s the secret: if first you make your area highly manageable, then second you make other improvements—those improvements require less effort to execute and to manage. It’s a simple but powerful concept.

The main idea is to organize an area in a way that further improvements do not increase its manager’s burden of managing, but instead lessen that burden. That manager is then is free to pay very close attention to supporting the individuals and teams in the area, to represent the area well to the area’s stakeholders, and to advocate on its behalf to senior management.

This is rarely the case, and is one reason why many functional areas remain siloed, and why senior management and other key stakeholders are often unaware of the true value of these area. It is also a key reason why a gap exists between the potential value of a functional area and the value that it currently delivers to the organization.

Making an Area Highly Manageable

There are many ways to organize and improve an area. Some are practically universal. Some are dependent upon the current state of the specific area. There are many aspects of work and activities, personnel and workloads, organizational relationships and interdependencies, resources, demands, requirements, roles, responsibilities and so on that could become a focus for improvement.

Almost always there is low-hanging fruit that a manager can go after for a quickly obtainable result. But unless changes and improvements are done in a way that makes the area more highly manageable, the benefits will be short-lived and may even backfire on the personnel, the manager, or both. That is what has given many managers and their staff an aversion to any kind of initiative that seeks to improve efficiency or effectiveness.

The fact that making an area highly manageable is the missing ingredient in achieving sustainable success is a little-known but very critical factor.

What is also not widely known is how simple it is to make micro-improvements that, bit by bit, all contribute to having a stably productive and more highly manageable area.

That is the subject of the series of articles titled: Winning with a Highly Manageable Functional Area. The series includes checklists, worksheets and tools that you can use to make micro-improvements that constitute a path to a highly manageable area.

Job Characterization Checklist

The pressures of daily work and total immersion in operational details can narrow your thinking and lower its altitude. The purpose of the Job Characterization Checklist (download link below) is to help achieve or restore that 10,000 foot view of things. Partly this is a little examination of the past. Partly it is taking a new look at the present.


The checklist covers the situations of the one-person-army, the working manager, and the full-time manager; it also takes into account the various organizational dynamics that support or constrain your efforts to operate and improve your security function.

© 2015 RBCS