Followers of Facebook, other social media, members of North American Bodyguard Association, The International Bodyguard Association, readers of protection textbooks and attendees at executive protection schools receive generalized instruction and share information, beliefs and thoughts about various aspects of providing close personal protection services.
What is usually not addressed are various issues of the big picture of society and security and how the industry has become McDonaldized.
We often ask, “Why do we do things this way” The most common answer is, “Because we have always done it this way!” We follow the same basic standards, procedures and practices because they have been time tested and work. With McDonalization, the process undergoes development with practitioners always seeking a better, smoother and faster way to accomplish the desired affect.
Sociologist Max Weber (1864 – 1920) observed society with a view he termed rationalization. “…which is the process of replacing traditional and emotional thought with reason and efficiency. Weber believed that most societies throughout history were governed by tradition and that the most significant trend in modern sociology is an increasing rationalization of every part of our daily lives.”[i]
In 1993 George Ritzer resurrected themes of Weber and called it “The McDonalization of Society”. His analysis centered around four primary principles: Efficiency, Predictability or standardization, Calculability, and Control. According to Ritzer these elements are found in the phenomenon of fast food restaurants and has spread to the whole of society from self-checkout lines in stores to standardized testing in schools, to almost every facet of life.
- Efficiency is a focus on minimizing the time required to complete individual tasks as well as that required to complete the whole operation.
- Predictability and standardization are found in repetitive and routinized production or service delivery processes and in the consistent output of products or experiences that are identical or close to it
- Calculability is a focus on quantifiable objectives
- Control is to ensure that workers appear and act the same on a moment-to-moment and daily basis. [ii]
Now, how does all this relate to close personal protection? “The process of McDonaldization takes a task and breaks it down into smaller tasks. This is repeated until all tasks have been broken down to the smallest possible level. The resulting tasks are then rationalized to find the single most efficient method for completing each task. All other methods are then deemed inefficient and discarded.
The result is an efficient, logical sequence of methods that can be completed the same way every time to produce the desired outcome. The outcome is predictable. All aspects of the process are easily controlled. Additionally, quantity (or calculability) becomes the measurement of good performance.”[iii]
In close personal protection efficiency is seen in finding the quickest and safest ways to move the protectee from point A to point B and back again. It is the role and responsibility of the advanceman to look at all possible options and select ways most efficient and timely. Efficiency is found in total team work – everyone involved with the movement and overall security of the protectee; including listening to suggestions made by the protectee and staff.
In the contemporary world, technology has brought us advances never dreamed even twenty years ago; GPS, mapping, palm sized phones/computers, transmission of data and photos of the routes, venue, potential trouble spots, etc. All intended to make the assignment safer, yet doing it in a way improving efficiency. In writing there is a saying, “Don’t use five words when one will do”’ In martial arts, the saying is “Don’t make five moves when one will do”. In protective services, efficiency is key by taking advantage of all methods and techniques available in “the new school” of doing it smarter, faster and better.
An assignment does not end when the physical protective responsibility is completed. After action reports should be prepared with suggestions for improvement and how to increase everyone’s efficiency; maybe elimination of choke points, ways of moving the spectators or guests to the venue – Everyone seeking ways their contributions and movements could be more efficient. The after action report will become a record available for future assignments; increasing the efficiency of advances and movements and potentially eliminating wasted effort. Everyone seeking ways their contributions could be more efficient.
The second principle of McDonaldization, predictability, or standardization, is a cornerstone of close personal protection. A protection operator should be able to move from one assignment to the next without having to resort to retraining. The principles of protection remain invariable regardless of who or where the assignment demands. The curriculum taught at “principles of protection” seminars and schools are predictable and standardized, with the only variation being the presenter and method /manner of presentation.
Calculability in protective services is a given requirement inherent in the principles of protection. Calculations begin immediately with the estimation of manpower, assets required and costs. As the advance is conducted, the advanceman calculates time and distance the protectee travels or is exposed in vulnerable areas. Estimates are made of anticipated public attendance and calculations are made about the most advantageous way to move the protectee through, around or past the crowd.
Calculability is important in determining the likelihood of the potentiality of an act against the principal. One hundred percent security is never a guarantee, but with a calculation of potential threats and analysis of threat data and physical examination of the protectee’s immediate and surrounding environment, the odds can be reduced to be more in the favor of the protection team, regardless if the team consists of one or more protectors.
Control, the fourth concept of McDonaldization is first noted in ways of controlling fans and spectators, because people are the greatest cause of uncertainty, unpredictability and inefficiency in any routine. A soon as a protectee ventures into public areas, giving a speech, performing in a stage show or merely signing books or autographs, a close personal protection agent must be wary of the crowds and determine ways of controlling them. This is done through utilization of psychological and physical barriers such as stanchions and theater ropes, fences, “bottlenecks”, mechanized metal detectors or physical searches, anything that keeps an overzealous fan or a potential attacker away from the immediate vicinity of the person being protected.
Close personal protection has standardized methods, procedures, and practices that have stood the tests of time and circumstances. In any business, improvement comes in many forms.
The four concepts of McDonaldization, Efficiency, Predictability, Calculability, and Control are inherent in the evolution of close personal protection. Technology has increased efficiency of protective advances and intelligence gathering through the use of GPS, mapping of routes and sites, instant messaging, etc.
The principle of Predictability in close personal protection follows standard practices developed through experiences and situational training. A practitioner can move from one assignment to another without having to spend time learning protection principles. A briefing session regarding the instant assignment is the only necessity prior to assuming the assignment.
Calculability is done by the protection agent when measuring crowd size, potential threats, the best ways of movement of the protectee in terms of time, distance and vulnerability.
Control comes in many forms; maintaining movement of the protectee in relation to the public, of the venue, the entire atmosphere surrounding the protectee.
A protector is constantly seeking and inventing methods and means of increasing the efficiency, predictability, calculability and control of his responsibility to the the person being protected. In doing so, he is following the George Ritzer model of McDonaldization of society.
McDonaldization of Close Personal Protection