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Security and scope creep

Almost everyone that has a job has been told at least once that the new task they’ve been assigned falls under “other related duties.” Usually it has been said with a bit of humour attached, however, in 2011 we as security professionals need to be concerned when duties are added to our staff that are not clearly articulated in an agreed upon scope of work.


September 6, 2011
By Roger Miller

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A co-worker recently referred to the assigning of additional duties as “scope creep,” meaning the scope of work we agreed to has had new tasks assigned and we are beginning to “creep” outside the intended boundaries. Wikipedia actually defines scope creep, also referred to as responsibility creep, as “uncontrolled changes in a project’s scope.”

Being in the service industry, we traditionally have accepted almost anything that clients of our services would ask us to do, without question. Often these extra duties have been some of the most tangible functions security personnel perform on a regular basis, so why do they have to be an issue? To refuse to contribute to the needs of those who hire us is contradictory to normal protocols.

In 2011, we live and work in a society managed by contracts, lawyers, insurers and government regulation more than ever. When these groups assess security personnel, the view is often that of a person providing relatively sedentary services. Security personnel are not assessed as being involved in heavy lifting, cleaning, maintenance or other related building services functions. Therefore when a security person is injured or causes damage to property, the external groups referenced above take a dim view of the situation. This creates a higher level of liability for managers of security departments.

Many of our clients, internal or external, do not systematically or intentionally attach out-of-scope responsibilities to their security staff. It is done on an ad hoc or as needed basis, then tends to carry over to become permanent in scope. If the task is not quickly identified as detrimental in some way, then it becomes an accepted responsibility of security and is piggy backed on their previously assigned responsibilities. In many cases no one has reason to object until something goes wrong, then who is responsible? If an employee is injured or damage is done, it is too late to determine who was responsible for preventing the incident in the first place.

Each security officer will have a different view of what his or her duties really are if they are ever asked. It is commendable how willing the average security professional is to accommodate requests from our clients or the general public. Commendable yes, but not always practical or in anyone’s best interests. This assigns responsibility to managers to ensure clear expectations are laid out that will prevent undue liability, whilst still serving the needs of our clients. Not an easy balance to accomplish, yet it is critical that security managers, facility managers or others involved in managing the affected groups pay close attention to this issue.

The challenge is to ensure we provide a high level of service through professional contributions, without being “black or white” on the day-to-day tasks. By being knowledgeable of the services performed by security personnel, you as a manager will be able to limit the “scope creep” while still providing a value-added contribution to the property

Security professionals and those who are served by security must recognize that the primary purpose for their presence is SECURITY. Anything that is added to that role may be outside of the functions they are trained for and becomes a liability by taking them away from their security duties.

Roger Miller is Vice President, Northeastern Protection Service, Dartmouth, N.S. He is past Chair of CSIS Atlantic, and was presented the Lifetime Membership Award from the society in 2009. Roger has been in the security industry since 1981.


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