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4 Steps to Effective Compliance Measures

The internet is full of pictures showing sloppy and careless workmanship. In some cases the viewer is instantly able to see what compromises are at the root of the evil that followed. Why was a sink placed directly above the bathtub? Why do these stairs lead not to a door but to a wall? Maybe we are not able to see the big picture, maybe the bathtub and stairs are used differently; maybe the home handyman thinks his approach is optimal or maybe what we see simply is not the final state of things.

Laughing is easy, but judging situations too early may backfire.

Some compliance managers may feel the urge now and then to just say Of course you can do it that way but then it’s shit in certain situations. Why are large amounts of money invested in consulting services and software if in the end a business process is applied that renders the prior investment completely useless?

The reason for non-compliance that almost always applies is an unfinished conversation about requirements. Maybe hard decisions had to be made; maybe compliance requirements were too strict and unforgiving. It is always easy to look back and nitpick at mistakes made.

4 Steps to Avoiding Compliance Flubs

Can compliance flub be avoided? In a linear world this would be in fact no issue at all; the only thing we had to do is to adhere to existing standards. But reality looks different. Rules and regulations come from different worlds and are in contradiction to each other. We are bound by restrictions, left and right.

But there are ways to avoid flub and to even make compliance measures a worthwhile and economically sensible investment.

Step 1: Be bold! Set up your compliance management as a center of profit.

Make investments that enable you to make money. Avoid investments that can be cancelled easily, or neutralized. These kinds of investments will diminish your Return on Compliance Investment (ROCI) relating to the individual investment, and can have a devastating effect on your entire compliance management system by making it untrustworthy.

A few more thoughts on how to guarantee success of your compliance measures:

The first thing that is important in order create effective compliance measures is to understand that compliance is more than just a list of rules and regulations. These rules and regulations do not exist for their own sake but to enable conformity that has a purpose. It is vital that compliance management does not change this fact; admittedly, a new, extended understanding of purpose may be needed.

Compliance is effective if you regard it as a management system that

  • systematically tries to find answers to different kinds of
  • conflicting,
  • unclear,
  • in some cases, future
  • stakeholder requirements.

How does this help you? Well, you are taking one step toward reality; a reality that is manageable. There are no easy and quick answers, as there a no wrong ones. New and innovative answers are needed all the time.

Let us return to the beginning of this article. You have a small bathroom but you need a bathtub and a sink? Legal requirements also apply? Well, compliance is here to guide you. Maybe even by introducing new materials or techniques, or by reminding you of the art of omission.

The long way to the final state

The only way to arrive at a satisfying conclusion is to look at all the requirements. Be objective, and look at them as wishes and requests. At this point, it is not about implementation; this is about laying the groundwork and preventing mistakes that may become problems later in the process, e.g. by not hearing out a stakeholder.

Step 2: Be patient. Wait to ask questions, to moderate and to structure discussions until stakeholder requests have been compiled.

It is then that you are allowed to moderate, to set a focus, to support. Do not interupt the process of gathering stakeholder wishes and requests.

Compliance is an important conversation. You company will only be successful if its products and business processes make sense. This is what this conversation is about; make sure to keep the conversation going.

Step 3 : Metaphorically speaking, imagine the well-being and future existence of your company is dependend on the progress of this conversation; imagine that everything, business processes as well as the products themselves are just complex answers to entitled questions.

Approach them systematically:

  • Ask about their significance and for implementation options;
  • ask about prior experiences, internal and external as well as about hopes and fears.

Redundant requirements will become obvious and regulatory excess will be avoided. It is then your turn to decide on a strategy for implementation. At this point clarity about acceptance of processes and products is more important than consensus.

Step 4: Keep the discussion alive and going!

The necessity for change will become visible, which is the prerequisite for compliance based on future requirements.

If you bear all this in mind your investments into compliance already have a solid foundation. In case you have to defend these investments (and you almost certainly will; budgets generally must be defended) you should focus on measurable results.

First of all, use the numbers provided by controlling or revisions. Compliance-specific numbers can easily be gathered from resource activities, e.g. compliance trainings, resource leads or a specific, compliance-related knowledge management. The most important thing is to look at how often and how successful compliance has furthered the creation of new products and processes and the advancement of existing ones.

Compliance 2015 – Perspectives on a Development

How is compliance evolving in the eyes of affected experts?

An overview of questions and answers from 2015 can be found in the Jahrbuch 2015 des Berufsverbands der Compliance Manager (BCM) (Yearbook 2015).  Should you have more ideas on how to measure the added value created by compliance measures let me know by replying to this post!

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Björn Rohde-Liebenau is an experienced compliance specialist. He has extensive knowledge and experience in project work, legal affairs and QA measures and has worked for organizations such as technology companies or Transparency International. Also a skilled mediator, he is currently working as compliance ombudsman.

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