You may not immediately recognize the word “spork.” Perhaps you know it as a “foon.” It’s that inventive little utensil made famous by fast-food take out and camping trips. The spork is a combination of a spoon and a fork. An efficient and cost-saving invention that has been around since at least the eighteen hundreds (I won’t go into all the things I know about the Spork’s history because that would sound ‘geeky.’).
Now this little tool is great in a pinch (or on the road or in the woods) but I’m going to go out on a ledge and make a guess. I’d guess if I open the utensil drawer in your kitchen that I would find lots of silverware. No doubt, two sizes of spoons, two types of knives and probably two sizes of forks. I’d probably see that you could last a week in full supply without ever washing a utensil. And I’d bet that beyond the basics, you have a whole bunch of other interesting, though seldom used “specialty” utensils. An entire drawer of stuff devoted to doing one thing – eating. I’ll go a little farther out on that ledge and bet that in all that stuff, maybe…and that’s a big maybe…you have one “spork” still wrapped in plastic. That lone little guy is probably not with the silverware, but in that “other” drawer - The one where you keep all those condiment leftovers and take-out menus from your last fast food run.
Of course, there is a good reason why we don’t own a designer set of sporks. It’s handy, it’s efficient, it’s even cost-effective, but the spork is not exactly the perfect tool for something we do every day. Sure it will work most of the time, but it is kind of limiting…like when faced with a plate of spaghetti.
Loss Prevention tools often look like sporks. Sometimes it seems to make sense to just combine a few of the minimal attributes and call it “good enough.” However, just like the spork, it may be efficient and a cost saver, but it’s hardly the way we should eat every meal. When we “spork our LP program” we ultimately wind up with an imbalance (too much spoon, not enough fork). It is like spending all of your available resources on a single effort (like investigations) and little time and resources on other functions (e.g. awareness, analysis, training – real training not just conversations).
Yes, this approach will work (you can always eat with your fingers and drink soup out of the bowl), but not using all of the correct utensils has its drawbacks. Eventually that plate of spaghetti will present itself and you will have a mess on your hands (and everywhere else). The “savings” disappear when we consider the extra time and energy it takes to do a job with the wrong tool. Not to mention you wouldn’t think of owning just one golf club, or one handbag, but we often accept having just one tool in our loss prevention bag.
Loss prevention requires several correct tools to get it right…and to keep it that way. It requires an audit function to separate fact from fiction, it requires training and written awareness to move from reactive to proactive, it requires analysis to gain efficiency, and of course, it requires investigations. Much in the same way that your dinner utensils aren’t complete without a fork, spoon, cutting knife, butter knife, teaspoon and soup spoon. You just can’t get the job done right without these things. Loss prevention tools don’t have to cost a fortune. There are many cost-effective solutions, including outsourcing, to help build the proper foundation. Loss prevention is just like eating…no matter how many meals you skip, sooner or later you are going to eat, so it makes sense to be properly prepared.
As a final note, as an outsource provider, I am often asked about the value of the “intangibles” that an in-house team provides. Most people cannot actually define the components of these…makes sense since they are called intangibles. My answer, however, is clear. Intangibles are not a tool. An intangible is more like a napkin. So if you’re LP program is a spork well then you and that bowl of spaghetti are gonna need a lot of intangibles to get through. If however, you have all the right utensils on the table…just one napkin will probably do the trick.
Written by Raymond Esposito, Executive Vice President