When I mention our work in assessing and assisting with compliance, he is quick to firmly tell me, "Oh, we're fully compliant," and quickly changes the subject. Fair enough; compliance is a pretty dry topic for cocktail hour.
What I find interesting is how often I hear his comment. I want to be clear: I was not selling or delivering a long-winded testimonial on the importance of compliance. I was only answering his questions.
Even more interesting to me is that his response is a lie -- what I believe to be THE great lie of compliance. No organization is fully compliant. To believe so is to not only lie to others, but to lie to oneself. And far too many business leaders not only believe this great lie, but they share it, too.
A great danger here is that once this big lie is believed -- that compliance has been fully attained -- work to remain compliant likely stops or fades. After all, if you believe you've crossed the finish line, why keep running? Move on to the next race. But compliance is not a race.
This great lie of compliance creates a false sense of accomplishment and security. It also reveals who among senior leadership fails to understand compliance. It is not a destination; it is a lifestyle. It is not a checklist or an occasional audit; it is way of thinking. It is not a periodic training workshop; it is a culture.
Compliance is always changing. Once you train staff, most of this training fades quickly without daily cultural and procedural reinforcement. People's behavior is constantly changing, and the people they interact with are also continually changing.
Of course, many organizations are highly compliant, but that is not the same as fully compliant. Operations like these are proactive and diligent about their efforts. They typically can tell you at any given time a list of issues of greatest concern and how they are working to address them. What they will not ever tell you is the great lie of compliance. They will never say they are fully compliant because they know the dangers of that lie.
I find that the highly compliant organizations are also typically more efficient and profitable than their peers. Compliance efforts are not heavy, add-on tasks, but instead work best when they are streamlined into daily activity.
Big lies often come back to haunt the teller. Don't lie to yourself about compliance.
Glenn S. Phillips prefers you not lie to yourself or others. He is the president of Forte' Incorporated where he works with business leaders who want to leverage technology and understand the often hidden risks within. Glenn is the author of the book Nerd-to-English and you can find him on Twitter at @NerdToEnglish.