Is Your Security Department an Army of One?

"I'm in this war

But Got no gun

Still standing strong

An Army of One

So sign me up

I'm a soldier"

Army of One, Bon Jovi

 

If ever there was a business anthem for many of today’s security leaders it’s Bon Jovi’s rock hit “Army of One”. In a stressed corporate environment where the constant mantra is do more with less, that sometimes means doing everything yourself.

But as I heard at this month’s Next Generation Security Leader Program hosted by the Security Executive Council (SEC) at the annual Great Conversation event in Seattle, being an army of one doesn’t necessarily mean going it alone. While 24 percent of Fortune 500 companies have no in-house Chief Security Officer, there is usually a single point of contact in the organization that is entrusted to facilitate risk mitigation.

The Army of One concept has become a business norm across many organizations. The economic crisis that enveloped the United States in 2008, which fueled more than $14 trillion in economic losses and created the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, forced organizations to rethink the way they went to business and retool their internal processes.

Mark Lex, former CSO at Abbott Labs and currently a faculty member with the SEC, says that if you survived the economic downturn of 2008 through 2010 and are still with your current company, you have had to chart a new roadmap. He stresses that there are several key issues a down-sized security department and its leader must address to stay relevant. Chief among them is managing the “information glut” that can potentially overwhelm an executive. Providing concise metrics and updated dashboards to the C-Suite is vital in keeping all parties informed and on task.

He also maintains that today’s security leader must anticipate the future as organizations endure contraction or embark on acquisitions. “This requires a nimbleness since change will alter how you run your department,” Lex says. “Successful strategies will include driving risk ownership directly to the business. Do we assess the right risk and does management understand that risk?”

Lex also challenges strapped security executives to understand the total cost of running their departments and making sure there is alignment with the organization you are charged to secure.

Leveraging external partners to achieve program objectives is a crucial element of success for any Army of One security leader explains William Plante, the former CSO of Symantec and now a consultant with the Aronson Security Group. “At the end of the day, you must be a visionary and share that vision with your company.”

In a 2012 article in Bloomberg Businessweek, writers G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitn dealt with Army of One concept, treating it more as a badge of honor than a curse. They wrote:

“Think about a legendary innovation initiative your company undertook. Now think of the person who drove it. At some point you may have described him as a hero or a jackass. We are certain you called him something: the project lead, the idea monkey, the ringleader, the champion, the dreamer, the idealist, the bully, the general.

Where there is innovation, there is a warrior; there is an Army of One. There has to be, because without such a person nothing meaningful gets done. If you want to be associated with success, then align with, support, or be the creator.”

These words mirror how Bob Fahy approaches his realignment of security’s role with the Kraft Foods Group. As its’ director of corporate security, Fahy admits carrying the banner of departmental change and alignment is not easy, but it can be done.

“You need to be strategic and not reactional. You want to be an influencer, not just a doer,” says Fahy. “Make sure you have vetted your business partners and that they understand your vision and your mission!”

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