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executive protection dysfunctions

6 Executive Protection Dysfunctions

In the blog the focus is to highlight the factors that lead to the failure of executive protection (EP) programs.

We will now delve into why some of these programs fail.

Initially, we will concentrate on the six main dysfunctions responsible for creating problems in corporate and high-net-worth protection programs.

These 6 dysfunctions are:

  1. Dissimilar framing of what executive protection entails.
  2. Poor scoping of EP programs.
  3. Inappropriate control span in the EP program.
  4. Weak EP program leadership.
  5. Fostering a fear-based environment.
  6. Excessive ego in an EP program.

These traits are interlinked, and one problem can give rise to another. Even a single dysfunction can create significant issues and jeopardize an otherwise stable EP program.

If two or more dysfunctions appear simultaneously, the situation can become even more dire. If these preventable problems are left unchecked, they can cause an EP program to become a disaster.

We will examine each of these dysfunctions individually. Beginning with a fundamental issue, which is that clients and providers often have different interpretations of executive protection when they engage in conversations.

The dissimilar framing of executive protection leads to program dysfunction. Similar to how a frame sets the boundaries for what’s inside and outside a painting or photo, sociologists use framing to describe how we use stereotypes and stories to comprehend and communicate about reality and the categories we use to discuss it.

Framing enables us to simplify complex, messy things into clear-cut categories, making communication easier.

However, using dissimilar frames to describe the same things leads to confusion and dysfunction.

New clients often define executive protection based on what they see in the media, which is quite different from the frame of reference of experienced providers who have worked with corporations and high net worth individuals for several decades.

Moreover, not all providers in the executive protection industry frame their services the same way, highlighting the need for industry standardization.

Agreed-upon standards would contribute to shared frames of reference for good and bad executive protection services.

Different providers have different frames of reference, making it difficult to manage client expectations.

For example, big shops can differ significantly from single-man operations, and some teams rely more on protective intelligence and advances than others.

Additionally, North American and European perspectives on executive protection can differ.

Those accustomed to the Secret Service’s resources may face challenges in even the most ambitious corporate programs with budget constraints.

From the provider’s perspective, corporate and high net worth executive protection should go beyond keeping the principal safe. It should also enhance productivity, respect the client’s personal preferences and lifestyle, and offer comprehensive support.

Providers need to communicate the value proposition of a well-run executive protection program, including both hard and soft skills.

Failure to establish clear expectations and understanding of what executive protection entails can lead to program dysfunctions and other issues.

To address the problem of dissimilar framing, we must calibrate our frames through communication and education.

Since most clients are not familiar with executive protection practices, it falls upon providers to explicitly articulate their framing of key issues.

For example, in our frame of reference, we know that sustainment training is critical to any good program. Without it, skills deteriorate, and team readiness suffers. However, this may come as a surprise to new clients who are unfamiliar with the concept.

It is our responsibility to communicate the benefits and drawbacks of sustainment training and educate clients on why it is a necessary component of any personal protection service. By doing so, we can help clients calibrate their framing and establish clear expectations for the program.

Just because certain practices are common does not mean they are the best or even good practices in the executive protection industry.

Unfortunately, new clients often look to other companies’ practices to establish a frame of reference, and this can be problematic. If these common practices have fallen afoul of the dysfunction-causing issues we have mentioned, they do more harm than good.

To establish a shared frame of reference, it is our responsibility as providers to clearly describe our view on executive protection best practices. As a specialized service that many new clients have little experience with, we must take the lead in calibrating this frame of reference.

This process involves discussing issues such as leadership, scoping, span of control, SOPs, training, quality control, and other factors that can impact program success.

By consistently communicating and educating about best practices over time, we can establish ourselves as trusted advisors rather than just commodity vendors.

Such framing calibration happens increasingly in well-run RFP processes where: 

  1. The starting point is an agreed frame of reference of best-in-class personal protection that encompasses all aspects of a 3.0 EP program. Through benchmarking against similar situations, clients gain an understanding of the dimensions and operations of a solid EP program.
  2. Clients are then empowered to make informed decisions regarding the components they want to include or exclude from the program based on their personal preferences and budget. This choice should be made from a full range of tried and tested risk mitigation methods.
  3. The scope of work (SOW) clearly outlines what falls within the agreed frame of reference. From our experience, the more detailed and specific the SOW, the more successful the EP program will be.

Defining program success in clear terms is crucial for establishing shared framing, both during and after RFP processes.

Consensus must be reached on what success looks like, and documented with metrics and key performance indicators that highlight any gaps between current and ideal states. Regular meetings with relevant stakeholders must then be held to agree on corrective actions and protect this consensus. These efforts are essential for driving shared understanding of the EP program’s purpose and ensuring that everyone is aligned on program quality.

This concludes our discussion of the most critical causes of dysfunctional EP teams.

Stand by for Part 2 “Poor scoping of EP Programs”