Compliance programs are born with enthusiasm and gusto, but are often forgotten on a bookshelf and die a slow lonely life. Why?
Compliance is complex. More than complex, compliance programs can become burdensome and are too often quickly discarded to the dusty bookshelves of a back-office. There are many challenges with compliance, but far too often the core problem is that compliance programs are developed in isolation by a small group of people without company wide buy-in.
Getting Buy-In and Getting Acceptance
When you build a new program – be it compliance or other – it can be a frustrating experience to bring others along for the journey. Getting people to engage and buy-in to a new initiative takes a tremendous amount of energy. Very often, we give up and go off to build the program on our own. This offers the benefit of getting the work done faster, but it can set you up for big problems later on.
If you build a system without others, you expose yourself to a few key risks. First, your system will likely be centred around your point of view of the organization and the problem. We each have a unique take on how information is structured and how an organization should behave. Changing our own view is very hard, so we should at least bear in mind that we have a biased view.
In Information Science, it is a well accepted fact that there are five ways to organize information. Each method for organizing information has its benefits and drawbacks. If you organize a compliance program from your point of view (or a small group), it is probable that you will choose one of the following five methods that makes the most sense to you, but probably not to others who need to use your system. The five ways are:
- Location based (part of your facility)
- Alphabetically (lookup a procedure)
- Time based (file a report, conduct a training)
- Category (environment, safety, quality)
- Hierarchy (department or business unit)
To overcome this risk it is critical that you get both buy-in and acceptance from your stakeholders. It is critical to differentiate who you need buy-in from and who you need acceptance from, because it is not all the same thing. Nimonik recommends that you make a list of people and leaders who need to give you buy-in and acceptance (people can be in both lists) and then methodically go through the list until you have 100% of those people onboard.
When you do approach them you want to validate that they understand the what, why, who, when and how of your program. They need to understand
- How you organized your program (see the five ways above),
- Why this program is worth the effort (business case),
- Who will lead it (responsibilities), and
- When will it be rolled out and managed (time management).
If you can get all parties to sign-off on this information you are in business!
To create and deploy a successful compliance program there are many more steps. The key point though is to structure your program in such a way as to get both buy-in and acceptance. This will dramatically increase the benefit and the longevity of your compliance program. Too many compliance programs are built in a corner without this key element and when there are staff changes the compliance program and all of its Excel files die a slow death on someone’s computer!