Metrics that answer questions

This post from Seth Godin could have been written for ethics and compliance professionals who regularly scramble to create charts for the next board meeting.

Those charts are often filled with output metrics and lagging indicators that beg more questions than they answer. Those metrics are used because they are easy to track.

If I show you a chart that tracks my daily body weight (output metric), and you notice a trend or spikes, you will immediately ask for details about my nutrition and exercise (input metric). Keeping track of my weight is easy. Keeping track of my caloric intake and outake is a lot more work, but that’s where the answers are.

The next time you look at the chart that tracks the number of calls to your helpline, ask yourself how helpful it is (it’s not, at least not on its own). Then find something useful to measure.

Just because we can

In his blog post today, Seth Godin reminds use that some industries get away with ignoring customer satisfaction because their customers will use them only once and only for a short period of time.

Maybe the same forces are at play with employers who ignore employee satisfaction (and ethical business practices) because their employees are seasonal or temporary, and won’t be back next year.

Just because we can get away with it doesn’t mean we should do it. And if we decide to do it, we must remember that, in this new interconnected world, we are much more vulnerable to a disruption. Why not simply do the right thing and treat our employees and customers the way we’d want to be treated?

Keep it fresh

If a business keeps selling the exact same product or service for 10 years (think Blockbuster), chances are that a competitor with a fresh offering will displace it.

Support functions in a business (like HR, finance, and ethics & compliance) don’t have the same competition. So many of them to the exact same thing, over and over again. Same onboarding, same reports, same training – while the world is changing.

Eventually this creates a drag on the business, giving an edge to competitors with better support functions. If we don’t recognize where that edge comes from, we will simply ask the sales force to “sell harder”. That pressure is likely to lead to wrongdoing (remember the fraud triangle?), which must be addressed by – you guessed it: stale support functions. Talk about a vicious cycle.

Never lose sight that changes in the marketplace impact more than your products and services; they also impact vital support functions like ethics & compliance.

Keep it fresh.


HT to Seth Godin

Why are you measuring?

Strathern’s Law states that “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

Seth Godin put it in terms that E&C professionals can appreciate: “As soon as we try to manipulate behaviors to alter a measure, it’s no longer useful.”

Just think of Wells Fargo’s “Eight is Great!”. Need I say more?

If you use metrics at work (and you do), ask yourself why they are in place:

  • Are you trying to identify pain points, and allocate resources to alleviate the pain? Or,
  • Are you trying to change behavior?

If the sole (or primary) purpose of your metric is to encourage or discourage a particular behavior, you may be headed for trouble.

Adapt or die

Do you work for a company that doesn’t give much thought to ethics & compliance? If so, it won’t last much longer.

The only way to change their posture is to change how they look at the world.

Read the homepage of a media outlet every day (I recommend npr.org for the US). Look for a story that points to a change in the world that could affect your company. Discuss this change with your supervisor or another leader, and show them why it would be best to adapt now instead of reacting later.

Do this consistently, and your company will naturally start focussing on ethics & compliance.

In the process, you will also save your company.


HT to Seth Godin

Sustainability is in the how

Leaders like Chase Jarvis and Seth Godin tell us that artists (and we are all artists) don’t work to make money. They make money so that they can keep doing their art.

So if you like to paint, you sell your paintings so that you can keep painting (and not for the money). If you like to cook food for others, you sell your food so you can keep cooking. If you like to create software that unleashes users’ creativity, you sell your software so you can keep coding.

None of us can create and sell our art by ourselves. We must work with colleagues, suppliers, customers, intermediaries. This is why how we create and sell matters just as much as what we create and sell. It cannot be enough to just want to cook food for other people. We must care about the entire value chain if we want it to be sustainable.

For it must be sustainable if we are to do it again tomorrow.

My Top 5 Ethics and Compliance Influencers for 2020

Every workday, I aim to write a post on this blog.

My process is simple. I read, then I write. I read about current events and I read what others have written on ethics and compliance.

The world’s news often offers a good idea for a post. When that fails, I can rely on other writers for inspiration, people who think deeply about what it means to be human, to fail and to strive always to do better.

This post will highlight 4 individuals and one organization who most inspired my writing this year. Of course, there are many others, too many to list here. But these 5 were with me all year as we all tried to navigate an uncomfortable world.

I encourage you to follow them*.

Richard Bistrong. Before becoming an advisor on corruption risks, Richard was an international sales executive. At some point along the way, he stepped on the proverbial slippery slope and was eventually sentenced to federal prison for corruption. Richard doesn’t blame anyone for the choices he made. By sharing his story (in person and online), Richard helps others identify and avoid risky situations. He teaches by being transparent and vulnerable.

Carsten Tams. Carsten doesn’t blog just anywhere; his posts are featured on two separate blogs of Forbes Magazine. After over 15 years in various roles linked to ethics and culture in a global media company, Carsten now helps clients solve organizational challenges by using the latest findings of behavioral science. He reads broadly, thinks deeply and write clearly.

The Ethics & Compliance Initiative. This organization is dedicated to helping its members create and sustain high-quality ethics and compliance programs**. It does so by providing research that doesn’t aim to sell you a product or a service, but rather helps you understand what truly drives behavior in an organization. With its daily email briefings, monthly stats and annual surveys, the ECI helps me bring value to both my organization and my readers.

Ricardo Pellafone. Ricardo changed how I look at compliance training. I now understand the difference between risk-based training – the kind that’s great for lawyers – and task-based training – the kind that’s perfect for employees trying their darn best to do their job compliantly without having to spend eons learning about compliance. Ricardo and his team at Broadcat write sharp, no-nonsense posts on their blog, often spiked with funny GIFs and videos.

Seth Godin. Seth is not an E&C professional. He is a writer and a marketer. A marketer is not the same as an advertiser; advertisers try to make you buy stuff. Seth tries to make you see the world as it is and urges you to make a difference. He does so with short, daily blog posts (he hasn’t missed a day in over 10 years). Seth often write about the importance of trust in business, which often inspires my writing.


* As with all posts, my views are not expressed on behalf of or at the request of my employer.

** Full disclosure: I am a board member of this organization.

The second rule of the game

In today’s post, Seth Godin reminds us that the first rule of any game should be “All players must agree to not cheat.”

It’s a metaphor for workers, companies, governments and regulators. When only one of them cheats, the others can often contain the damage. When all of them cheat (think 737 MAX), you get a human catastrophe.

Thus, the second rule of the game should be “If a player cheats, no other player will tolerate it.”