High and low fidelity

“Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t lie.”

That’s a phrase my CEO repeats regularly at town hall meetings. It compresses our code of conduct and our policies into a neat reminder that we seek always to do the right thing.

The problem with compressions is that they are low fidelity. “Don’t lie” doesn’t tell an employee what to say or who to ask for help. The high fidelity recording is the actual policy.

So, of course, we need both.

Hat tip to Seth Godin.

Is this data helpful?

This post is for E&C professionals who prepare slide decks at this time of the year to show “annual key metrics” to leadership.

This should sound familiar: you look at a chart and anticipate what questions leadership will have. Questions like “How does this compare to the previous 5 years?” or “What discipline were imposed for this category of allegations?”

And off you go preparing more charts. Each leading to more anticipated questions. And soon your deck becomes an exercise to answer questions from people who, at times, just like to hear themselves asking questions.

The only data that leadership should have is data that helps them make decisions, trust the current system, and anticipate what’s ahead.

If the data doesn’t do that, resist the temptation to include it.

HT to Seth Godin

How good ideas surface

I don’t know who said it first, but having a healthy speak-up culture does not only serve the compliance function.

When employees feel comfortable enough to raise concerns, they usually feel comfortable enough to share good ideas.

A good idea often brings disagreement. It disagrees with the old way of doing things, and some people are likely to disagree with the new idea.

We need organizations that can live with disagreements. As the world changes (and it always does), the faster new ideas are welcome, the more resilient is the organization.

Building a speak-up culture may be the most important thing we can work on.

HT to Seth Godin.

If they knew

What would your mother think?

What if it were on the front page of the newspaper?

These two integrity tests apply strong emotional pressure.

But here’s a more subtle test, one that we can use for most interactions:

If the people you’re interacting with discover what you already know, will they be glad that they did what you asked them to?

Seth Godin, The Practice, #36

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.