Compliance doesn’t win the game… but noncompliance can lose it

I have been advocating for a long time now for changing the name of the game: leaving behind the misnomer “compliance management” and putting the focus on culture, ethics and risk or simply put: good decision making.

To use an analogy from the world of sports, more specifically football (I mean the European version where you are not supposed to touch the ball with your hands – soccer for our American friends): if you are the coach of a team and put in place a very good system that ensures that all your players stick to the rules of the game at all times, don’t play foul, don’t go offside, stay within the playing field, don’t play the ball with your hands … if you do all that, will that significantly increase your chances of winning the matches or the entire championship? Considering that all the other teams may not play completely fair and the referee won’t see or sanction each and every violation…

Or isn’t it rather the talented player, their team spirit, the motivation and morale, the trust that the teammates have in each other’s abilities and the way they play together as a team that will be a much more decisive factor for winning or losing? In other words: ethics, culture and smart risk-taking.

Of course, complete disregard of the rules and pushing the limits with opportunistic shortcuts, breaking rules where it’s likely to be undetected or unsanctioned can cost you the success and are likely to ruin your reputation. Noncompliance doesn’t pay off, certainly.

But without the right team and team culture, no matter how well you stick to the rules, you’re not going to win.

In this respect I can be happy to be working in a company where the function is now called „Ethics, Risk & Compliance“, with the „C“ making up only a third of the name and coming last. And I wouldn’t want to work elsewhere where it might still be called „Legal & Compliance“, because for me that kind of says it all…

In my work, I focus mostly on ethical culture, risk management and good decision making in my work. My most favorite thing is giving a training called “Why Good People Do Bad Things”. My passion is a team of highly motivated ethical culture champions called the “Samurai”.

A good speak up culture, a rising level of psychological safety and a high level of compliance is the outcome – and comes pretty naturally. Even in a country like Turkey (some wouldn’t believe it).

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