Does Your LP Program Have Tunnel Vision?
Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives
Probably — and I say that with all due respect to your efforts. Humans are
specialists by nature. That is we tend to gravitate towards the things we know,
the things we like, and the things that we are good at. Past experiences also
lend a hand in defining the focus of our attention. Complete objectivity is
difficult and while we shouldn’t advocate “doing things just to do them,” when
it comes to loss prevention striking the proper balance is critical to success.
LP programs are often defined by the specialties and experiences of those in
charge. If the LP leader has a strong audit background then audits tend to be
the main focus—the solution to resolving or preventing issues. If a leader comes
with a lot of investigative experience then the apprehension of dishonest
associates is the main call to action. Spend some time speaking with folks at
association events and you’ll find various arguments for the need for a
particular focus. The reasoning often begins with, “well in our organization or
culture...” I’m not suggesting these folks are incorrect in their summations of
core issues in their organizations. What we should recognize though is that the
best and most effective loss prevention programs strike a balance in activities.
A few years ago while attending the NRF, I had an interesting conversation with
an individual about his LP program. We were discussing various aspects like
awareness and training and this LP professional was contending that they were
“great” on all those things. I wasn’t surprised because as an LP outsource
provider LP folks are often a little defensive when I ask questions about their
efforts. I didn’t press the issue of greatness but asked a few more questions
about educating and on-boarding new associates. “We do an excellent job with
that,” he told me. “Full education on the importance of LP and continuing
It seemed good to me. I was, as I always am, just interested in discovering what
works for others. No one has the secret recipe and we can always learn and
improve by learning from other’s experiences. The conversation shifted to
dishonesty apprehensions. This particular individual, I knew from previous
discussions, loved the investigative part of the job and had a good track record
of success in interviewing. He went on to tell me how active he had been of
late. How many apprehensions he had and how he had “cleared out” several of his
stores. “Took out everyone including the manager in three locations.”
The pride was evident. No reason not to be happy with such a grand resolution.
“That’s great,” I offered. “But I have a question.” He smiled prepared to tell
me “how” he did it. “If your doing an excellent job with on-boarding—full
education and all—then how is it you are getting so many dishonest employees?
Doesn’t that mean the deterrence program isn’t really working?” Okay, so he
didn’t like my question and didn’t have a real answer. I wasn’t trying to put
him on the spot or deflate his accomplishments. “Well, people are going to steal
no matter what,” was his answer and I nodded.
This individual isn’t a bad loss prevention professional. In fact, quite the
opposite, he’s really good at the aspect of his job he is most focused
on—investigations. The conversation was more reflective of a common problem in
any aspect of business. The practices and programs are often driven towards the
elements we are best or most comfortable engaging. If those talents are aligned
with the actual problem then all is well. But when things shift, the environment
changes or new challenges arise, such tunnel vision can leave us wondering why,
“what always worked in the past, no longer is working.”
You probably cannot completely overcome human nature and the desire to stick
with what we know best. The solution however is to ensure we include all the
best practice pieces in our program, choose a champion for the parts that aren’t
in our particular wheelhouse, and be objective in the allocation of resources
across all components. In other words if we’re good at inventory control then
get some partners who like auditing and investigations. If we’re good at
auditing and operations, find some investigation gurus.
No one aspect of loss prevention is the secret to success. Environments change,
staff change, issues change. The best way to be prepared is a well-balanced
program whose components can ebb and flow with the current needs in a way that
doesn’t require new components as much as it requires small shifts in focus.