In 2014 I published my first article in the Journal of Healthcare Protection Management. The title of the article was The Strategic Security Officer. It was my attempt to relate a concept I drew from my time in the military, and how it applies to healthcare security. I have grown tremendously in the years since I wrote the original article, but my belief in this concept remains strong. I wanted to take a few moments this week to share that concept with you, and make my case for strategic security officers.
There are those who stereotype security work as a simple-minded pursuit. This stereotype is outdated and belies the truth which is that security work, especially in the dynamic healthcare environment, is a thinking persons game.
I based the concept of the Strategic Security Officer on work by General Charles Krulak entitled The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War (1999). General Krulak’s point was that modern conflict is such that our lowest level leaders are making decisions on the battle field that can have strategic ramification for the whole of our nation’s foreign policy, and we should be preparing them as such. I believe his idea of the “Strategic Corporal” applies in every situation, where a single decision maker can tip the balance of a situation and affect the strategic outcome for their organization.
Healthcare security officers face every possible tactical challenge within the scope of a single shift. From a simple customer service interaction, to responding to a person engaged in active assaultive behavior, these officers make decisions every day that have far reaching implications for their organizations. Their decisions create strategic ripples that can reverberate well beyond the actions of a single person. In many cases, officers are making these decisions in mere seconds, alone, and under stress.
A strategic officer is one who can apply all of his training, experience, and an understanding of the organization’s mission and vision to an evolving situation, and make crucial, timely, and ethical decisions that will positively affect the strategic outcomes for the organization. Creating this type of officer involves a significant investment of time and energy. When our aim is to develop officers who are strategic assets, then we refocus ourselves to that purpose. We retool our training, and we revisit the hiring process to ensure we are starting off with a solid candidate from the very beginning.
Security leaders must create professional development opportunities that challenge strategic and ethical decision making. Training should be focused on how to decide, and not on what decision to make. As we build the strategic officer, it is no longer desirable to train them to make a specific decision every time, because every time is different. Security training specialists must rethink training, and refocus our efforts on teaching officers how to make decisions. Built on the bedrock of ethics and our organization’s mission and vision we must teach strategies to aid these officers in coming to the right decision, and then enable them to use those strategies.
At the core, our collective mission is to prevent crime from occurring, and to provide safe environments no matter the circumstance. To do this, I believe we must embrace the strategic officer concept. We begin by understanding the nature of the ever changing and complex environment of healthcare security. Then, utilizing stringent hiring practices, we build a high-quality foundation of officer candidates. We indoctrinate them with a strong ethical foundation built upon our organization’s core values, mission and vision. Then, we develop sound decision making training in which we offer the officer the opportunity to ask insightful questions about our processes and procedures. Finally, we empower each officer as a leader and give them the opportunity to grow their potential with the understanding that as their potential grows so does the potential of our entire industry. I believe that as strategic officers take to the field their focus on the organizational implications of their everyday decisions will create a new level of innovation that sets the standard for our industry in the years to come.
What are your thoughts on the strategic officer concept? Do you see an application for it within the Healthcare security industry? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Krulak, C. (1999). The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War. Marines Magazine, 8(2).