by Roy Snell, CEO SCCE
A recent discussion with Joel Rogers from Compliance Wave triggered an interesting thought. There is an old parable from the Indian subcontinent about a blind man and an elephant. The story also has been told as a few men in a dark room that all touch a part of an elephant and each have a totally different perception of what the elephant is based on what part of the elephant they touch. One touches the tail and thinks it is a snake, the leg a tree, etc. From Wikipedia, “At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, the behavior of experts in fields where there is a deficit or inaccessibility of information, the need for communication, and respect for different perspectives.”
I cannot imagine a more fitting use of this parable than the experience compliance professionals have had. The risk department has touched a part of the elephant (compliance) and thinks it is all about risk. Professionals in audit have said it is a part of audit, legal a part of legal, and human resources (HR) a part of HR. They have all had incomplete information, and as a result of touching one part of compliance, they think it is all about what they are familiar with. The irony is that the press, public, politicians, and prosecutors are asking to use all the elements of a compliance program in a coordinated, unconflicted manner to prevent, find, and fix ethical and regulatory problems. They have specifically asked that we not look at the individual disconnected pieces as we have in the past.
The fledgling compliance department struggles with other professions telling leadership what a compliance program is. On the other hand, my advice to compliance professionals is to be more flexible with regard to letting other departments be involved. I would not object to the other departments helping, but when they become conflicted or will not correct the problems they find, we must retake control and finish.
There is inevitable conflict in the evolution of any new profession. Part of the role of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics is to help make sure that the compliance program and role of the compliance officer is defined in a way that our organizations have the best possible chance to meet society’s ethical and regulatory expectations. Eventually, this will become easier and the compliance profession and related professions will settle in and work together to restore trust in the business community.
Reprinted from Journal of Health Care Compliance, Volume 16, Number 4, July-August 2014, with permission from CCH and Aspen Publishers, Wolters Kluwer businesses. For permission to reprint, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.