Compliance is Like a Good Roof

Recently I was listening to a business speaker who talked about how a good sales program would have overlapping features like shingles on a roof. I appreciated the imagery, but thought it even more true for my field, because after all, both a roof and a good compliance system provide protection against outside forces.

To extend the analogy, let’s compare laying shingles to how tile is installed. With shingles, you put down a row and then lay the next row over about half the first piece. That’s a good compliance program. Each step is supplying coverage and support for the next one. You have your logistic people covering your buyers, and your financial people supporting your logistics folks, and your buyers watching everything as well—layers of people and systems making sure you are protected. No one section stands alone—every point has a double thickness. Backup is built into the system from the very first moment.

Now tile might be a fine floor in some situations, but it’s not a good analogy for a compliance system. With tile you have each piece laid side by side, each covering its own territory. The pieces don’t even touch!  After laying everything out, you then smear grout all over, trying to fill the gaps evenly, trying to make the final floor watertight. That might work for tile, but it’s a terribly risky way to run a compliance program.

The best compliance culture is one where you’ve reduced the risks of anything slipping through the cracks. Look at your system. Do you have overlap or do you have completely independent territories standing alone?

Of course, it’s not just the system—you have to find the right players to fit that system. Tile doesn’t work in an overlapping pattern. It’s not flexible and is simply not built to perform well that way. And some people aren’t built to respond well to system checks. They might take it personally and be defensive about someone else catching mistakes, or alternatively, they could slack off, assuming someone else will catch what they let slip. Some people want a buffer of grout between themselves and the rest of the operations—they prefer to stand alone and only worry about their own area of responsibility.

Finding people who work well in a shingle system isn’t always easy. They have to understand that just as part of their position may be covered by another, they are responsible for providing support for another. They have to be able to both give and take. And management needs to design a well-layered system with balance and support. It’s not easy to build a good roof or a good compliance system, but when the storms come, you’ll be glad to have one in place.

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