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The compliance culture is a culture based on fear of not complying and fear of making a mistake. It’s a style that was brought about to get rid of underperforming workers, but as an ongoing strategy is also getting rid of good workers with good knowledge who have simply made a mistake. What happens when you’re trying to type with someone looking over your shoulder? Suddenly you make tols ov nistakes (lots of mistakes). This style does not allow employees to be the worker they truly are.

Compliance used to be an occasional bar against which we would measure ourselves to pull our processes back into line or to meet industry standards. Instead compliance has become a strategic objective linked to disciplinary procedures.

This new compliance culture creates fear because it comes from a place of fear. Fear of not acting enough or of being blamed for actions taken and fear of actually talking to employees. Seeking out the opinions of employees and addressing any negativity that comes through is the key to preventing misconduct at its root.

Admittedly there are some people who are just difficult people and don’t tend to change their tune, but the vast majority of employees are not like that. They are people who have a wealth of experience and knowledge, but may not understand their leaders’ motivations or have the access to provide feedback without defensiveness or blame. Ignoring employees in this manner will ultimately lead to their making decisions and taking actions that are not compliant, but that may achieve results, however ill-gotten they may be.

Extraditing them from the organisation merely cuts the top off the weed, but does not pull the root. Understanding the intent of their actions and position they felt themselves placed in when acting non-compliantly will give a real insight into what is going on within the organisation and provide the impetus for change.

Regular communication with employees with the intent of collaboration and breaking down the barriers that hierarchy and fear present not only great opportunities for advancement of the organisation, but also a more productive work environment with less non-compliance and less turnover where people feel a real sense of contribution and ownership.

Getting this kind of culture off the ground requires a resilient attitude to deal with the initial influx of negativity. Being curious about the negativity, its origins and solutions and following through on changing the negativity will create a swift cultural shift. Following through with this curious and inclusive attitude in the long-term will sustain it.

The Process Improvement Handbook contains guided questions to ask your employees to find out their true opinions on the culture and hopes for the organisation. These raw answers are then fed through the response refining tools to produce positive actions to turn your culture around.


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