Compliance Communications Blog

The #1 Enemy For Compliance Professionals


Effectiveness vs Simplicity The importance of simplicity has long been lauded in matters both physical and metaphysical.  Einstein is credited as having said, “Everything should be as simple as it can be” (of course he adds – in a nod to completeness – “but not simpler.”)  William of Ockham, 14th century English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher, is best known for his problem-solving principle that says that among competing theories, the one containing the fewest assumptions (absent other evidence for complexity) is the best one.  This cutting away of every “superfluous ontological apparatus” is famously known as “Ockham’s Razor.”

Nowhere is the need for simplicity greater than in your compliance communications.  This is true both in terms of the messages themselves, as well as at the meta-level – the level of your compliance communication program.

With respect to actual communications, it amazes me that there are still organizations that will send memos or policy documents – containing sometimes several pages of text – out to their employees and feel that they’ve communicated.  Several years ago, when I was the Director of Ethics Training for the City of New York, new City employees would be handed the full Chapter on Ethics Law right out of the New York City Charter!  The City Charter is a bona fide legal document, with several pages of definitions and carefully nuanced legalese.  Employees were required to sign a certification saying they received it (which they did), and that they read and understood it (which they didn’t).

Of course, by now most compliance professionals understand that this is not effective communication.  But the way that I see complexity hurting compliance communications today is at the level of the program itself.  There is a place for planning, certainly.  For a communication program to be successful it must be sustainable; to be sustainable it must be planned.  But I also have encountered several companies who always seem to be planning, always seem to be evaluating, always seem to be analyzing their needs, and always seem to be building a communication plan of ever-increasing complexity.  In the meantime, they may not actually be communicating very much at all to employees. 

The quote in the title of this post – “Complexity is the enemy of execution” – comes from Peak-performance Coach Tony Robbins, who understands that there is a time for analysis and planning, and there is a time for action.  And the more we perfect our complex communication plan, the less likely it is that we will ever do anything with it.


COMPLIANCE COMMUNICATIONS TIP:  Don’t sacrifice today’s compliance communications in the name of planning.  In other words, don’t wait until you have the perfect communication plan in place before you start communicating your compliance message. Risks are present today.  By then it might be too late.


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