Stop the Pattern


By John R. Nocero & Jennifer L. Kennedy

Both of us are lucky enough to have professional mentors who have shared their experiences and held us accountable. We’ve prioritized these relationships as our careers evolved. Everyone needs a coach to provide guidance as you set your course. The ideal coach is someone who can see how the pieces fit together to get you where you want to go, who helps you develop a focused yet flexible action plan and who holds you accountable to make it happen (McGuigan, 2017).

Sounds easy enough, right?  In practice, the road can be long, discussions painful and clarity of vision elusive. Setting the course with brutal honesty while analyzing the patterns around you are key. Some patterns are good, some self-destructive, but you can’t decide to break them until you see them. Seeing these patterns is called the Tetris Effect, a catchy term players use to describe the way they see Tetriminos in everyday situations (“The Tetris Effect, 1985-2016).

According to Chen (2013), anyone who has ever played Tetris knows how the game spills into real life. You’re grocery shopping and find yourself thinking about rearranging the vegetable setup along with the carts in the parking lot. Somehow, your mind continues to play the game, even when you’re physically not playing. Because Tetris, like the real world, challenges players to make order out of chaos using a specific organization system, game components translate easily into lifestyle interpretations. Whether you’re packing a suitcase or loading a dishwasher, you’re likely strategizing about how each object fits together with minimal empty space (“The Tetris Effect, 1985-2016).

What does this have to do with compliance? A compliance professional’s job is seeing how the pieces fit together in the midst of chaos. Chaos is the consequence of choices spread over time and across organizations. Chaos ensues through sheer virtue of regulatory creation & change, deadlines, external audits, risk assessments and quality plans. The compliance professional must have an eye on how the pieces fit together, how to keep the chaos from taking over. You know those people who are always turning & burning, putting out fires at the office or constantly pulling up their own pants instead using a belt-and-suspenders approach. Compliance can’t operate like that.

It’s not just fitting your pieces together; it’s understanding how they fit. Chen (2013) equates seeing the positive Tetris Effect to learning a foreign language. It will be the most difficult and unnatural-feeling at the beginning. The rewards will make you feel unbelievably happier if you stick with it.

Just like Tetris, the higher the level, the faster the pieces and parts travel.

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Chen, W. (2013). Rewire Your Brain for Positivity and Happiness Using the Tetris Effect. Retrieved February 16, 2017 from
McGuigan, K. 2017. Professional Courage. Retrieved February 16, 2017 from
The Tetris Effect. 1985-2016. Retrieved February 16, 2017 from


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