Mission creep [definition]:
Gradual increase in scope: a tendency of military operations in foreign countries to increase gradually in scope and demand further commitment of personnel and resources as the situation develops.
We can all agree that there is a certain level of customer service that is needed to maintain client/protectee satisfaction. We are constantly making sure that what we are doing is meeting client/principal expectations so that the end result is maintaining that relationship and steady work. Detail leaders and company owners often have to micro-manage the mission expectations with individual specialists that want to venture off that paved road.
What then happens is that you have specialists which are more concerned about themselves than the company, the detail or the mission. They begin purposely doing non-mission tasks to ingratiate themselves to the principal. This overzealous attempt to increase “customer satisfaction” can and will destroy a detail, and the service provider. It is vitally imperative that company owners articulate expectations and deliverables to every specialist on the detail. If you leave any matter unaddressed, you leave it to the discretion of the individual or team. That is NOT where you want to be; the ROEs [rules of engagement] have to be clearly defined. Mission standards are the responsibility of each and every person on the detail and the detail leader has the daily responsibility of managing that task. As soon as he/she recognizes mission creep, they have to put a stop to it immediately.
Mission creep is a disease that will infect everyone at a fast rate. Once infestation has begun it will start to affect the expectations of all working the detail. Here is a classic example: You have safely transported your protectee to her office where a security process exists to stop anyone from getting to her without an appointment. The executive assistant then tells the CEO [your principal] that her 11:00 appointment will be delayed because the ride from the airport cannot make it. You volunteer to collect the individual from the airport; this means leaving the office, and your principal, which she agrees to. Clients always feel that they are safe in their office, but your mission responsibility is to remain with them throughout the day. This one instance has caused mission creep and set a precedent. Now, an expectation exists that the principal can use you for unrelated tasks whenever she is ‘safely’ in her office. The next specialist that mounts a stance about leaving the office will be viewed as insubordinate if they cannot articulate why they should not leave.
That is just one example of mission creep but perhaps the most common arises when specialists attempt to befriend the protectee. Conversations detailing personal lives or discussing intimate subjects with the principal are the big issue and an indicator of specialists lacking the correct mindset. I always avoid being in their personal space and I decline invitations to personal or family events because I don’t ever want them to feel that I am comfortable crossing that professional line. Many of you won’t see anything wrong with this, but once you cross that line, the relationship has changed and the detail is on the road from mission creep to detail crypt – DEAD.
Let’s agree that the foremost reason we are on a detail is to provide some level of protection which is detailed in the contract and articulated in the “Statement of work” section thereof. I will agree that in many cases we tend to be facilitators with less of a protective value, or as I refer to it as being; ‘executive concierge’. If you know this going into a task, then for the most part, ‘all bets are off’ regarding detail expectations, and mission creep becomes the meal of the day.
For those details where your primary mission is protection; mission creep cannot be construed with those tasks that may seem domestic, if the requirement to do them are for the overall security expectations. For the purpose of defining what I mean as mission creep let me put it this way. Mission creep is volunteering to do any task that is not related to the overall security responsibility or expectation. The example I gave above is mission creep and I will challenge anyone on that.
Many times when I am advancing a trip for one of my clients and I know 1 Alpha [wife] is accompanying him, I will add several known shopping stores [retailers] to my advance even if it is not on the itinerary. I am not asked to do so, but I know from past trips that is usually an OTR [Off The Record] movement. Many of you might see this as going beyond the scope, however in the greater scheme of the protective mission I have alleviated having to push someone into doing a “hasty advance”; this is the proactive mindset. However, if when the principal and his wife arrive in the AO [Area of Operations] I conveniently blurt out, “Ma’am I found you some great stores if you decide to do some shopping,” then that is a journey onto Mission Creep Boulevard. Your statement is an attempt to ingratiate and shine the light on yourself – False Value. In fact, if you already know that she has a pattern of shopping; it is your responsibility to at least prepare for that likely outcome. If she decides to do so [shop] you are already prepared and no pre-announced “Look what I did,” declaration is necessary.
Mission creep changes the expectations of the client/protectee not the detail. Once the client/principal begins to view something new as expected, and when it does not contribute to the overall security mission, then you have crossed territory into the gray zone and it will then infect the detail.
When mission creep occurs, you will often hear it from senior members of the detail and then possibly by the leadership. What one detail leader sees as normal behavior may be well within the “Gray Zone” of mission creep for another. The charge is to always have clear and defined responsibilities and expectations. What one detail leader sees as outside the scope, may be within another’s “area of appropriate behavior”.
Client relationships are built upon many factors but the main one is the overall “worth” of the security provider to the client. How that worth is measured can vary from client to client, whereby one may view the extraneous non-security tasks as worthiness and another may assess your worthiness purely based upon professional standards. I have one client [15+ years] that refuses to allow any of their staff to task me or my team with anything non-security related, then I have others that couldn’t care less.
By the nature of what we do and what we provide, we are facilitators. We facilitate ease of movement while providing a protective bubble. We facilitate an air of comfort that allows decision makers to carry on their normal duties without having to worry about inconsequential issues unrelated to their daily responsibilities. We assist them by providing a safe and secure environment. The Keyword; assist, is a verb or an action word. When the word assists turns into the word assistant [noun], you are in full blown mission creep. An assistant to the client/principal is a title that is assigned to a staff member. Crossing that line incorporates different expectations, and different responsibilities. It is impossible to wear the hat of protector and assistant at the same time. The expectations of an assistant, more often than not, conflict with what we do and perform. There are not enough hours in the day to switch from one hat to another, and even if there were, you would have difficulty performing both roles at maximum capacity.
Stay the VERB!
By Eric Konohia
Eric Konohia is an International Operator and the President of BPI Security www.BPIUSA.com