|Key Business Challenge
Today we look at the challenges faced by boards of management, their Human Resources colleagues, and business schools, in trying to build effective teams who must do much more than simply react to the latest topic that gets on the Urgent Attention agenda. We demonstrate that senior experienced corporate security people can bring much-needed complementary skills to keeping a robust team equipped to anticipate as well as manage challenges and uncertainties.
Why the marriage of learning and practical
is more important than ever today.
Have we learned anything since the Global Finance Crisis? The intervening years of activity in the financial services sector provide a fascinating insight into the future. The marketers and messages are out there again, being delivered by people who claim the only way forward is to a never-ending world of more and more passionate and emotionally engaged brands delivering profit, and for some, intangible fame.
Like with other ‘Halo Effects’, we saw, shortly after what now seems like eons ago at the start of this century, unlearned lessons from the dot.com bubble, followed by the next round of behaviour in financial markets where magicians pulled innumerable rabbits from magic hats, and most of the audience looked on in amazement, all seemingly secretly wishing and hoping and, well, knowing, there would be another one still coming out.
It is hard to overstate the power of group thinking in business and finance (John Kay, “The Long and Short of It”, p74-78, Erasmus Press, 2009).
We seem to be back in a world where people routinely listen out for the latest hot tip, or view about market modelling and behaviour, and as long as they have heard someone else also pass around the ‘facts’, they regard it all as gospel, a new testament. Back in 2007 it was considered cool if you could count yourself as ‘in’ with the trendy thinkers and market makers. It then becomes the norm to follow convention, even if convention says go with the high risk, go with a complex product whose underlying formula you can’t really fathom.
There must be a divine circle of knowing shining in the sky, people conclude, not a cloud of unknowing to cast doubt, and thousands of sun worshippers flocked to embrace the light, refusing to acknowledge the development of the storm clouds building on the horizon. Distorting lenses were propagated everywhere. If you didn’t go with the crowd and buy the shades that let you look cooler under the sun you were out, of fashion, friends and maybe a job too. What was true was what was believed, and what was believed was true.
And so it is the same for many other work practices, but before we return to that, take another observation from the world of economics (Keynes this time), where it was deemed that it is better for your career to be conventionally wrong than unconventionally right. This has significant implications for those who are engaged to protect assets and improve ways of managing uncertainty. The average security player, risk manager or compliance head are unwelcome harbingers of doom on the sunlit plains, like a group of Dementors from Harry Potter’s world.
MBAs and/or Managers?
In the global business world, the rising trend over scores of years or more has been to undergo the right of passage conferred by a quality MBA, such that one joined a priesthood at the fast-track level rather than having to undergo the boring roots-up entry process through grubbing around in things like sales or talking to retailers and consumers directly. No MBA credentials? No membership of the élite. Parts of this world have become populated with the modern equivalent of guilds and orders to match the pomposity and arrogance of the Middle Ages, with about as much of the same levels of insight into reality, and with the same disproportionate rewards for sacrificing one’s judgement, or at least one’s opinion, to the greater good, i.e. an accelerated career path, title, role, status, and in most cases, increased compensation.
But as with financial markets, it is actually very few who, with the medal of honour, come along and make a significant difference in markets and on behaviour. “What difference will you make in the world?” is the question Harvard Business School asks its students. Forgive a teaspoon of cynicism, because this question reveals a dark side to ambition as well as a good side. Some of these alumni had names like John Thain and Stan O’Neal, Andy Hornby and Hank Paulson, Rick Wagoner and Jeffrey Skilling. OK, so that is just a spoonful from the bowl that has produced 70,000 or more graduates, but their high-profile contributions to the changing subject of leadership raises a number of questions about élite values, rewards, and business and personal ethics.
In the early stages of their careers it was people like these who caused flocks of others to invest in MBAs for themselves, (and for their families and futures), and many are hard-working people in their respective industries today. But they are often not open-minded to new solutions that may just re-value their businesses and their roles in a downward direction. Too many of them are driven by what might be described as the logic of quantification, a need to reduce the world to a set of things that can be measured, containing a version of reality in a goldfish bowl, and consigning the hard to measure to a dark world beyond the lights directed at the pretty tropical fishes.
As it was said of financial markets (John Kay), the ‘mind of the market’ is very powerful. When a collective view has been established, challenges to it are resisted. So it is not surprising when challengers to “the way things are done around here” meet with scorn and derision. After all, to take a number of well-rewarded roles for intelligent people out of a mix is a serious business, especially if they can’t be shifted to other contributory roles. People don’t give up the trappings of status easily, and certainly not on moral pleading grounds. This is heightened if they have contracts in jurisdictions where the law is robust, and beliefs are stronger.
At this point it becomes clear then that to keep railing against these kinds of behaviours, shored up with sophisticated intellectual defenders and the kind of money that secures effective defence lawyers if matters come to court, may not actually not the best way forward, unless you are going to live to be as old as Noah to see something through. So what, if anything can be done to achieve a mature balance? If nothing is done, other problems can arise.
For example, what happens when you separate leading from managing? Too many people want to lead. Too many keep solving new problems without having to face the consequences of solving previous ones. Organisations are now full of people who have been rocketed into leadership positions with little management experience. What is the effect of putting a leader into a place with no appreciation of its history, and no sense of its culture? What is the effect of imposing a detached outsider on committed insiders? “Sure, a new broom sweeps clean, but…they are often more experienced at sweeping out experienced people than sweeping in new ideas”. The result of this leads to leadership being coveted as a means to get ahead personally rather than make an organisation a better place. Ironically, this can result in a style of management that is actually devoid of leadership. These outcomes have been closely analysed by one of America’s leading business school professors, Henry Mintzberg, who is a strong advocate of MBAs, and a strong critic of the absence of practical management experience.
A number of Senior security practitioners are now also holders of coveted MBAs, yet many of them also bring years of real-time experience into their roles from other disciplines and contexts. Vanguard business schools are realising that they need to increase the pragmatic elements of their programmes, and reduce the theoretical or ‘classroom-only’ learning systems, to enhance the ability of MBAs to make a connected and involved contribution to organisations quickly and effectively.
Our own business school programmes are almost entirely based on real-life cases, and are delivered by tutors who have had years of successful in situ experience in senior roles in industry, law enforcement, intelligence & security agencies and the armed forces. They are only academics in the sense that they are delivering services now in a learning environment. We completely welcome the coming together of faculties and security practitioners in enabling MBA students and graduates to draw on real experiences, and to practise learning in practical environments.
“The creation of strategy requires invention more than calculation, from connected minds that are able to see a different future”. Put the average MBA-dominant company team together and this will be significantly hindered because, “I think it fair to say that these people want to create the team and lead it to some glory, as opposed to being a member of a team that’s being driven by somebody else” (Henry Mintzberg, Managers not MBAs). This is a lot to do with the emergence of self-centred individuality, a function of the leader as a media celebrity cult today. But balance in a team is critical, and it can only work if the players can respect other styles and experiences. This means they need to be able to integrate with people who are not necessarily members of an élite alumni group.
The fluidity of ideas about leadership styles
Business and the press got caught up in the hero worship habit of the ‘90’s and early 2000’s, which exacerbated these kinds of challenges by eulogising lone leaders as saviours – individual leaders were put on pedestals, at the expense of others, often giving the impression to outsiders that the ‘Leader’ somehow did everything that mattered entirely themselves. The revolving door of this talent had little bearing on the company’s actual performance. These people arrived and made promises with other people’s money. If stocks rose they cashed in. If stocks fell they left with golden parachutes sanctioned by cowardly compensation committees. In this world, outsiders remained favoured. Anyone who knew the business inside out was suspect, so new teams were always in demand, and heroes were also those who were demanded the most. “The very characteristics that get people into senior positions undermine their performance once there – they are too smart, too fast, too confident, self-serving, and disconnected. Many of the white knights of heroic management turn out to be the black knights of corporate performance”.
Management needs to be in different places. For example, regarding yourself as being at the centre of an organisation, rather than on top of it, changes perceptions about the managerial world. In a web-connected environment management needs to be everywhere, which suggests that management has to be potentially everyone. So in a network, authority for making decisions and developing strategic initiatives has to be distributed, so that responsibility can flow to those best able to deal with the issues at hand. Control gives way to collaboration, command and control gives way to connecting and contributing. That means managers have to be inside networks, not just tangential to them, intent on leading the team. Now, try to change that in a context which has seen the glorification of self-interest grow faster than at any time since the 1920’s in the US alone. Greed was raised to some sort of high calling, and CEOs and others with leadership titles were regarded as if they alone created economic performance. How can discussion about a company’s value be taken seriously in this context? It can only happen if deference is given to the advantage of distributed intelligence, not totemic hero worship. It’s about context again. The self-selecting group that supports the leader demanding the design of faster horse-drawn carriages is immune to the Wright Brothers. Truly successful companies should fight to dismiss all irrelevancies that prevent them from being in the business of making worthwhile connections.
Staying real. Staying Connected.
Pulling together the thoughts of several players who spend much time analysing the changes in leaderships styles and practices, we can summarise by saying they all agree there is a need to get our heads around what we do, as compared with what we claim to do. Whatever happens now, there will emerge new forms and competing alternatives that will drive further changes.
For many, alternatives come at a welcomingly slow rate, leaving swathes of folk to retire successfully after career-long resistance to change. We owe it to others to change this state of affairs, and we will continue to champion the partnering of real experience with valuable classroom learning, hopefully enhancing the potential and contribution of MBAs while reducing their idealistic sense of some form of super-status. Well-rounded MBAs deserve respect and their significant compensation packages. We are talking here about how practicalities can finesse capabilities.
|Burrill Green Consulting
We continue to be sought out for our advice and experiences around the world.
One of the most difficult areas of operation we have experience in is in the world of kidnap and hostage scenarios. There are not always fairy-tale endings, and all eventualities have to be faced up to responsibly by organisations working anywhere where these kinds of activities are commonly practised.
At the MIS Training Institute's 8th Annual CSO Summit Conference held in Brussels, David Burrill, using a format provided for a number of our client companies, interviewed a relative of a hostage killed in Iraq after years of captivity. It was part of a Duty of Care module that he ran. These live interviews reinforce the vitally human aspects of the highly disturbing realities of kidnap and hostage matters, and provide an impactful incentive for companies to get their pre-, during and post-crisis programmes focused, actionable and realistic.
David Burrill interviewing a hostage relative at the MIS Training Institute's
8th Annual CSO Summit Conference held in Brussels in October.
David is the first life-appointed non-American member of the prestigious Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), and made his annual appearance at their gathering in November in Washington, DC.
He was also the only non-American panellist covering the topic Facing the Talent Gap Crisis at the Security 500 Conference in Washington DC. In particular, David addressed:
• The lack of entrepreneurship in corporate security leaders.
• Inadequacies in search and recruitment companies.
• The impact of poor training and education on performance.
• Damage done by inadvertently hiring the wrong people.
David Burrill, seen here centre with his fellow panellists, featured at the
Security 500 Conference on Monday, November 17, in Washington DC.
Looking just over the horizon into early next year, one of our newer and highly experienced associates, Rick McConnell, has been working on content for a workshop in Moscow, as part of the MSB Corporate Security Conference being held on 26 and 27 February 2015. Rick will address the challenges of creating a corporate security team for the 21st century, bringing the Burrill Green collective approach to bear on business alignment, corporate operating environments, risk-based approaches, organisation factors and performance metrics.
Meanwhile, here he is in the middle of helping an East European team work on Crisis Preparedness.
A student presents in a Crisis Preparedness and Management Guidelines
Workshop in Bucharest, October 2014, delivered by Rick McConnell.
|BG Corporate Security Business School
In between airport lounges and classes, we had a chance to hear our Director of Training, John Hedley, bring us up to date with the rapidly shifting needs and demands of our clients.
“Our training products continue to receive enthusiastic reviews from participants, resulting in encouraging and high demand for courses to be repeated. We listen carefully to the feedback and helpful suggestions from delegates and we constantly review the content of our courses to ensure that they are fully meeting our clients’ needs.
For example, the success of our 2013 course in Nigeria resulted in demand for a further two courses to be run in Lagos in November 2014. However, the Ebola outbreak has had an impact upon all economic activity in West Africa and training has not been spared. Unsurprisingly, we have seen a number of committed delegates from outside West Africa withdrawing from the courses and we have decided that the Nigeria courses should be postponed until mid-2015, by which time we hope this tragic epidemic will have been brought under control. Nonetheless, our commitment to the expansion of our training presence in West Africa remains strong. To this end we have recently formed a strategic partnership with a leading private security provider in Nigeria to promote Burrill Green courses throughout the region.
We also continue to deliver courses in-house to major multinational corporate clients, with school trainers travelling to Romania, Russia, Poland, Kazakhstan and Brazil. Discussions are also on-going with academic institutions in the Middle East and Asia with a view to introducing our courses to an even wider audience.”
Dr Frank Marsh, our Cyber Security specialist, is working to ensure that Cyber and Information Security will be integrated into the Burrill Green Security Master Class from 2015. All course teaching scenarios have been updated to include new cyber information security aspects.
In addition we will be launching a “CISO Think-in”. Frank, in his role as an internationally-renowned Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) will lead an interactive one-day workshop. This addresses a range of topics crucial to providing an integrated approach to security of information, information systems and cyber security. In particular we will deal with the continuing convergence of physical and digital security. As in all our teaching, real-life case studies will be used to illustrate key aspects of the approach. The target audience is security professionals who have responsibility for information and cyber security and who want to ensure they fully understand and are prepared to manage the potential challenges and threats to their organisations.
Burrill Green consultants often use teaching materials from the school as part of their assignments inside organisations. Equally so, their experience and learning in real markets and environments provides essential and up-to-date knowledge for the school’s own products and services.
A good example of this kind of virtuous loop will emerge next year as The Corporate and Cyber Security Executive Masterclass that will be held in Canada in June. For more information on the developing prospectus for this, simply mail email@example.com.
Good progress with our Country Security Managers' Course, and Tony Judge, Course Director, had this to report:
"The first two certificates were awarded to those graduating from this unique course, which is tailored to equip managers with the incremental knowledge needed to manage and deliver added value business security capability across an organisation. This is matched by no other business security course, with its focus on building an in-depth understanding of the role and scope of business security management together with the skills and techniques required to integrate business security into other business activities. Four more will attain the credits required for graduation by the end of this year.
All of these managers completed the course in the combined residential/distance learning format we have developed which provides the opportunity for managers to build upon each other's experiences during the residential phase while benefiting from the more personalised sessions of the distance learning phase".
We see further growth in this form of approach, which both reduces pressure on time-constrained managers inside their organisations, and allows for the tight tailoring of course to suit the candidate’s business and cultural operating environment.
|Security Solutions Now!
Capitalising on our global expertise and connections, we are deploying resources from our pool of experienced interim managers, to tackle immediate business issues and challenges. Our Director of Operations, Geoff Gillion, leads this service. It is designed to respond quickly and efficiently to immediate needs at any level, either by supplying one of our interim managers or by finding an alternative solution. It involves a quick telephone call or email to our help centre.
Call our offices on + 44 (0) 1233 850460 or email us here
As the service suggests, you will receive a very fast response from this Burrill Green practice. After detailed discussion we provide and agree clear parameters showing the extent of activity required together with reasonable costs.
For example, we have dealt with urgent investigative requirements into breaches of security, loss of vital documents and counterfeit problems. We have also dealt with due diligence on people, companies and providers through to large projects concentrating on vital, new and existing issues.
BurrillGreen has also been engaged to manage the successful transfer of a security provider from an existing to a new service for a multi-national company operating in South America. In terms of supply-chain security, our associates have travelled to the locations to physically examine the routes to be used. We have furnished clients with up-to-date and comprehensive threat assessments and risk analyses of the situation including interviews of potential transport partners, customers and officials, and the vetting of drivers and crews whilst confirming that levels of physical and technical security meet best practice and international standards.
We work together with other business functions to make sure that we fully understand a company and its reputational and financial imperatives. This has allowed our clients to make critical decisions in relation to future business opportunities and has given them the ability to adjust their routes and systems for maximum efficiency and security whilst having a detailed knowledge of the ground and local challenges.
We have carried out a number of successful detailed surveys of potential new markets for multi-national companies using our worldwide network of associates. This has enabled clients to take management decisions on new commercial undertakings, particularly in the Middle East and Latin America, and increasingly also in other regions too.
|Search and Selection
We continue to provide dedicated services to our candidates around the world. We continue to work hard to represent the interests of senior professional security and risk management experts through all levels of organisations. In addition, we constantly seek out ways to integrate experience and learning with Human Resource departments, with business schools and academics, and with all organisations, both public and private, who are working hard to make the world a flourishing, safe and enjoyable place.
2014 brought no end of new challenges and headline-making events. From predictable occasions like the World Cup, through to the inevitable return to the world stage of the Ebola virus; from a shifting morass of nation-state challenges to the mystery disappearance of MH370, it has all added up to another startling and in other ways simultaneously saddening year. We have had our own series of challenges and the need to be able to adjust constantly to rapid changes, forecast and un-forecast..
We expect to be doing exactly that again throughout 2015.
It only leaves us to wish you a safe and happy period between now and then.
Best wishes from David, Kevin and your whole Burrill Green team.
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