In business situations a common frustration can be that staff do not follow the defined procedure, that data updates are not supplied correctly and that business change activities take more time and cost than expected.
These symptoms can indicate a deeper and more pervasive issue, namely whether your organisation has a compliance culture.
These cultural issues can result in poor business decisions, dissatisfied customers and potentially challenging questions from regulators. Above all, they can have a noticeable effect on profitability.
So how can you tell whether your organisation (or parts of it) suffer from a culture of non-compliance?
The following symptoms are some of the ones to look out for:
- Staff create local variations and ‘improvements’ to defined business processes
- Staff do not routinely use the required safety equipment, especially personal hearing or eye protection
- Changes to planned work activities take place without approval, for example, whilst a server has been shut down to replace a failed disk drive, the support technician applies an untested application patch
- Data on completed work activities is either not supplied, or the bare minimum to ‘close the job’ is supplied
- Rather than choosing the correct job code for completed work, staff use the default code
- Projects struggle to be completed due to continued scope creep
- Change management activities take longer than forecast and do not result in a permanent change to the desired improved approach
If you see evidence of these symptoms, or similar, then your organisation is likely to be suffering from a culture of non-compliance.
Organisations which have a culture of non-compliance can suffer from many problems. These include:
- Higher accident rate
- Poor data quality
- Process ineffectiveness
- Poor customer perception
- Reduced profitability
- Higher project costs
- Unwelcome attention from regulators and auditors
The most pervasive effect of this culture is that any attempts at standardisation, change management or improvement activities are either ineffective, or quickly revert to ‘the old ways’.
So if you are working to improve data quality in such an organisation, it is likely that any improvements that you manage to achieve will take more effort and time than anticipated. Additionally, these changes are unlikely to be sustainable, so you may end up repeating the same data cleansing activities on an ongoing basis.
Improving the culture
A poor compliance culture is likely to affect most activities of an organisation, therefore, changes need to be across the whole organisation and reinforced by the Directors and Senior Managers.
Clear communication to staff is required to explain:
- Why the existing situation is not acceptable
- What they need to do differently
- What support is available to help people know what to do, how to raise concerns and sources of guidance
- The sanctions that will be applied if staff if they fail to comply with expected procedures and processes
These messages will need to be repeated in different formats on an ongoing basis.
Additionally, the leaders of the organisation need to lead by example. An organisation I worked in a few years ago engaged in a change programme to improve the approach to Health and Safety. Whilst this was under way, the Managing Director realised that he also had to work in a safe manner at home as well as at work – for example, when doing home improvements or gardening, he needed to use the same safety precautions as expected at work. The message of improving approaches to safety would quickly be devalued if the MD got a splinter in his eye whilst woodworking!
A current client, who are a major infrastructure project, have a ‘Target Zero’ initiative, which is intrinsic to everything they do. Target Zero is heavily focused towards avoiding accidents, but also includes requirements for simplicity, openness, cost effectiveness and delivery commitment. The is supported by a strong focus on compliance and governance. Most corporate messages refer back to Target Zero and are backed up with poster campaigns and regular staff reminders. So far, this approach is proving very successful in avoiding accidents and avoiding compliance failures.
So, if you are frustrated at why your efforts to improve data quality, streamline business processes and deliver projects to time, quality and budget, look at how compliant the organisation is. If the organisation has a culture of non-compliance, then you should be encouraging Directors and Senior Managers to increase the importance of compliance.