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Security by Wandering Around

Origination and Concept

In the 1970's, the Hewlett Packard company popularized a style of management known as "Management by Wandering Around" (MBWA). MBWA was made famous in the 1982 management book "In Search of Excellence" written by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman.

The basic theory behind MBWA is that managers, rather than staying in their offices and reading reports, should walk the floors of their company to observe what is actually going on. These walks should be done randomly and unannounced so that the manager sees actual conditions rather than something staged by employees in anticipation of the manager's visit. By making these visits on a random basis, the manager can gain a realistic picture of what is really happening at the company.

Security by Wandering Around

We highly recommend that security managers (or other managers in charge of security) institute a similar practice, something we call "Security by Wandering Around" (SBWA). This practice involves the security manager making frequent, unannounced inspections of the facilities that they manage, both during the work day, and at night and on weekends.

Here are some ideas for things that should be looked at when making SBWA inspections:

  • If your company has a employee identification badge wearing policy, are all employees properly displaying their badges? Are non-employees wearing visitor badges? Are unidentified people walking through the building?

  • Are doors and file cabinets that are supposed to kept locked actually kept locked?

  • Take a look at unattended employee desks and workstations to see what's lying on the desk. Unsecured confidential information? Unsecured laptops? Unsecured personal property (purses, wallets, etc.) 

  • Are passwords written on sticky notes attached to a keyboard or monitor? Are keys or access cards lying on the desk?

  • Take a look in office trash containers. Have sensitive documents been placed in the trash instead of being shredded or placed in shred bins?

  • Have sensitive documents been left lying in copy machines or printer?

  • If a commercial shredding service is used, are shred bins overflowing? Can documents easily be pulled or "fished" out of the slot in the bin?

  • Observe what goes on at the reception or security desk in your building lobby. Are proper visitor sign-in procedures being followed? Are certain people passing by the desk without stopping or being observed? Are unauthorized deliveries being received at the desk? Do the people staffing the desk appear to have too much or too little to do?

  • Observe your shipping/receiving loading docks. Are dock doors being left open when they are unattended? Has high-value merchandise been left unattended on the docks? Are vendors or employees using the dock as an unauthorized building entrance or exit point?

  • Observe employee entrance doors. Are employees individually using their access cards to enter the building, or are employees holding the door open for others? Are employees propping open the doors?

  • Inspect stairways and emergency exit doors. Are stairways being improperly used for storage? Are emergency exit doors blocked or obstructed?

  • Walk the entire perimeter of your buildings. Are all exterior doors, windows and hatches properly closed and latched? When opened, do doors close and latch on their own, or do they need to be pulled shut?

  • Take a look through the exterior windows on the ground level of your building. Do you see confidential or proprietary information openly displayed or written on whiteboards? What could a competitor learn by looking through your windows?

  • Take a look at your landscaping. Is it overgrown in some places? Does its obstruct lights or security cameras? Does it obscure windows or prevent direct visual observation of parking lots and walkways? Does landscaping provide convenient hiding places for criminals?

  • Walk the entire perimeter of your site. Is fencing loose or broken in any areas? Are materials stacked too close to the fence? Does it appear that there are unauthorized points of entry to your property? Are security signs properly placed and clearly visible? How is the overall housekeeping of the site?

  • Check exterior trash and recycle containers. Do they contain confidential documents that should have been shredded? Are trash containers that are supposed to be kept locked actually kept locked?

  • During the night, check the lights in the parking lots, along the walkways, and at the exterior of the building. Are there burned out lights? Are light fixtures in need of cleaning?

  • If you use security officers, observe their activities at various times throughout their shift without them being aware of your presence. Are officers properly attired? Are they making patrols at the assigned times? Are they following proper patrol procedures? Do they appear to be observant while making patrols, or are they just going through the motions? Do officers appear to be spending time on personal activities (phone calls, texting, school homework, etc.) rather than doing their jobs?

SBWA inspections should not be confused with formal security assessments or surveys: the SBWA process should be informal and free-flowing. The goal is to get an overall sense of what is going on at the facility, not to mark-off specific items on a form or checklist.

SBWA inspections should be conducted at least monthly. If you have never done this type of inspection before, prepare to be shocked. Avoid the temptation to place blame or to immediately start fixing problems that you have found. Instead, make notes of what you have observed. Then, after taking time to reflect on the data, put together a long-term plan for correcting the deficiencies that you have identified.

If you have questions about how to conduct "Security by Wandering Around" inspections at your facility, or need help in solving problems uncovered during your inspections, please contact us.


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