Stronger mission alignment may be the best way to keep security programs focused on the top management’s priorities. All too often organizations, and their constituent departments, create mission statements that are outward focused, and stop there. That is, they are meant to inform those looking at the organization or department of their focus. The outsiders of consequence, the organizational stakeholders, including customers, often have diverse interests which can make these mission statements complex. Similar supporting mission statements can be found within subordinate departments, and they often contain exciting terms and buzzwords to satisfy as many of the various stakeholders as possible.

Consider for a moment why these statements may use complex language, and consider the range of stakeholders and their individual priorities. Satisfying the latter, through representation in the language, creates a cocktail for an over-complicated mission statement. That is, in terms of being a useful tool for those inside the organization or department to find a focus for their efforts. While mission statements have a role in informing those external, they must also be useful to those expected to carry out that mission.

As a precept of enterprise security risk management, aligning security department values with those of the organization is a critical part of a successful security program. However, regardless of the security management paradigm employed, it is critical to internal customers and the organizational satisfaction with a security program. A radically simplified mission statement can be useful for ensuring programs are properly oriented and any subsequent decisions follow the same path in supporting organizational priorities. Limiting the mission statement to one sentence accomplishes this radical simplification and orientation. Take away the flowery language meant to impress and create a sentence that the team can use as a guide.

For instance, a close-out retailer might boil down their mission to, “We move freight,” or a business-supported social service organization might be: “We overcome barriers to employment.” The former recognizes the lower margins driving the need for rapid merchandise turnover from start to finish — acquisition to final sale. The latter demonstrates the overall focus on the social service mission, meaning the business activities ultimately serve that simple goal. Keeping it simple to a “We do this” may not encompass everything needed to get “this” done, but it makes the focus clear. Thus it falls to security, safety, loss prevention, asset protection, or any other moniker the function uses, to find a supporting statement equally succinct. 

Such short statements, more akin to mottos, can be spoken at meetings, posted where easily viewable, all while retaining its meaning. Further, proposals for new program activities, changes to current activities, or new technologies, can be more easily vetted against this shorter statement. Asking three initial questions will assist with framing the value of the proposals. First, adding the prefix, “Does this,” to the department statement, such as “Does this preserve the capacity to…” frames whether the proposal fits the operation. Second, assuming the first was answered in ascent, “How does this better…” and then the third question of, “How does this add value to…” will assist with screening the proposal.

When a difficult situation arises, as they often do for security personnel at all levels, calling for a decision that may or may not bend the rules, having a succinct mission statement offers fast guidance. If a mistake is made, the reasoning will have been rooted in the overall priorities as opposed to an absolute guess in an effort to satisfy this party or that party. 

Keeping the mission short and simple will offer additional advantages for a security team. Easier onboarding and assimilation to the team practices, ongoing guidance for individuals taking the initiative on deliberate activities, or in an emergent situation, and in how security leaders interact with other organizational leaders — always aligned with the common mission.