From a security perspective, the assignment was simple. The capacities and usage of each parking lot was measured at different times of the day; and controls - including stickers and pavement markers - were employed to keep usage at or below capacity. To aid enforcement, employee license plate numbers were recorded into a database so that violators could be contacted and asked to move their cars.
For a number of months, the new program worked as advertised. Then, something quite unexpected occurred - winter. Suddenly, the window stickers that were the backbone of enforcement were not visible under frosted-over windshields; and the boundaries of customer-only parking areas could not be distinguished because they had been marked by painted pavement. As the months went by, enforcement officers also noted that the license plate database was becoming unreliable as hospital workers renewed their state-issued license plates. Unmarked employee cars began creeping back onto the patient lots, and the complaints began anew.
All of the aforementioned problems should have been identified in the development stage - and would have been, had the security manager chosen to benchmark with peers and pilot the program before final implementation. In hindsight, thousands of dollars were spent changing out stickers for numbered metal license plate medallions. Thousands more were invested in weather-proof signage to mark the boundaries of customer parking; and a huge amount of time was spent reprogramming the license plate database to match medallion numbers to worker vehicles. It works now - but the patchwork fixes were frustrating for everyone and devalued the security manager's credibility in the eyes of administration.
The mark of a good security executive is not how much you know - but rather, how much are you willing to learn. Over the course of your career, make absorbing knowledge a cornerstone of your professional development. Talk to peers, vendors and your public to make informed decisions with the interests of your customers in mind. Finally, once you have decided on a course of action, be humble enough to admit if your solution is not working or appropriate. The reputation you save may be your own.
David J. Moitzheim, CPP, PCI, PSP, MBA, is a security and investigative professional with more than twenty-four years of management experience. He currently works as a Security Specialist at a major Midwestern hospital and serves on the Professional Certification Board of ASIS International.