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sarah d_scalet
Senior Editor

Schools of Thought: Georgetown’s Security Leadership Program

Jul 01, 20043 mins
IT Leadership

The idea is to introduce the basic ideas and concepts of security strategic planning. Professor Paul Almeida explains.

How you want to be seen and how others actually see you can be two very different things. The disconnect is alive and well in security and it forms the foundation of a course that Georgetown University Associate Professor Paul Almeida teaches each year. His class is part of a yearlong program organized by Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business professors and ISMA. CSO talked to Almeida about security’s image problem and how strategic planning can help.

CSO: What’s the goal of your course?

Paul Almeida: The idea is to introduce the basic ideas and concepts of strategic planning—what works well and what doesn’t work well, and the traps people often fall into. It’s also to help students apply these ideas to their own organizations. In four or five hours, I try to explain why strategic planning is important and how it can make a difference in security departments. I also lead into a project which they then do for the next six months or so, where they actually develop a business plan or a strategic plan for their department.

Do you poll others in the business to get their security views?

Yes. I have lots of industry contacts, so I do a little informal survey of 10 people, sometimes more. I try to deal with both security managers and nonsecurity managers. I ask them things like, How do you view the security department, and what are three words you would use to describe it?

How has what you’ve heard changed in the four years that you’ve been doing this?

To some extent, people’s opinions changed after Sept. 11. But they’ve sort of gone back to where they used to be. Before, you’d hear security folks described as “the company cops,” “a nuisance” or “they’re always there.” After 9/11, a lot of people started saying very positive things: “We really need them,” “they can protect us,” “we need to get them integrated with national security agencies.” Now, people think all the old words again.Is there a lot of disconnect between what you hear from outside security and how CSOs perceive themselves?Not really. If you ask security professionals themselves, they often give you both the positives and the negatives. The positives are how they hope to be seen. And the negatives are how they fear they are seen.What are the typical barriers CSOs face?The big one is the lack of managerial attention to the security function. They’re seen as important but peripheral. When [company executives are] thinking of merging with a new company or opening new plants or entering new markets, the security function is assumed to adjust to that. That’s a big frustration.What are the most valuable lessons for your students?One thing I do is say, I’ll say a word and you react. I’ll say business plan; many of them say more workpaperwork, time, energyrather than road map. I say, this is about increasing the probability of success. It might sound basic, but what I often see them realize is that being strategic can be a motivational and directional tool that can help them map out their future. The idea for strategic planning is to move from where you are to where you should be.