FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

April 6, 2015

Tribute To Eddie LeBaron and CCO as Compliance Project Sponsor

Eddie LeBaronToday we celebrate Eddie LeBaron, who died last week. LeBaron was a diminutive pro quarterback for 11 seasons in the National Football League (NFL) in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also a lawyer and decorated veteran, having been awarded the Bronze Star during the Korean Conflict. In his New York Times (NYT) obituary, Frank Litsky wrote “In a position where players are now routinely 6 feet 3 inches or taller, LeBaron was 5-foot-7, and his weight never reached 170 pounds. But he had no fear of scrambling.” LeBaron quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1963, before handling the reins of Coach Tom Landry’s offense over to Don Meredith with his retirement. After his retirement he worked as a color analyst for CBS Sports, who covered the NFL in those days. One of the things that I remember from his commentary work was the need for planning in any game plan. It was one of the first things I recall learning about pro football.

One of the skills you may be called upon as a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner is the initiation, integration or enhancement of a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance solution into an organization. Most assuredly, one of the things that is not taught in law school or in any compliance course is project management. As CCO, you may either lead such a project on a day-to-day basis or you may take the role of project sponsor, while delegating the day-to-day running of the project to a compliance practitioner in your group.

I thought about this issue when reading a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, entitled “How Executive Sponsors Influence Project Success”, by Timothy J. Kloppenborg and Debbie Tesch. In their article they note, “The role of a project sponsor is often overlooked. But for every stage of a project, there are key executive sponsor behaviors that can make the difference between success and failure.” I found their article has some excellent tips for the CCO or compliance practitioner who may be facing such a task. The authors break the project life cycle stage into four stages: (1) Initiating Stage; (2) Planning Stage; (3) Executing Stage; and (4) Closing Stage.

I.   Initiating Stage

In this stage there are three key activities that a sponsor should pursue. First, the sponsor needs to set the performance standards. This “can be accomplished in the project charter by stating goals about the project’s strategic value and how it will be measured.” But beyond the written details there must be a “clear understanding of expectations about performance” of which dialogue is critical. Second, the project sponsor must mentor the project manager, whose key responsibility is to explain, “how the project fits into the big picture, defining the performance standards and helping the project manager set priorities.” Finally, the project manager must establish the project priorities, with the “most compelling” questions being “what needs to happen first and how should conflicts by settled?”

II.  Planning Stage

In the Planning Stage the authors believe that there are two critical project sponsor behaviors. The first is to “ensure planning” activities are completed by providing “leadership so that the project manager and team can set goals that align with the vision and broader organizational goals. The second is to “develop productive relationships with stakeholders”. This means frequent meetings and communications. Interestingly, the project sponsor should not only see that “needs are identified and understood” but also make “sure that stakeholders’ emotional concerns are given adequate consideration.” Admittedly this is not something lawyers do particularly well but it is mandatory for the CCO or compliance professional.

III.  Executing Stage

In the Execution Stage the authors identify three elements. First the project sponsor must “ensure adequate and effective communication.” This means that regular communications must occur as the project progresses “to make sure that expectations are met.” However this may require the project sponsor to “stand ready to manage the organizational politics with internal and external stakeholders.” Second, a project sponsor must work to help “maintain relationships with stakeholders.” This element helps facilitate the project manager and project team communications noted in the first element. Here the project sponsor should be “open to direct feedback from team members” to ensure that expectations are met. Finally, the project sponsor should work to “ensure quality” by practicing “appropriate decision-making methods and work to resolve issues fairly.”

IV.  Closing Stage

Finally, in the Closing Stage the authors write that there are two elements that project sponsors should emphasize. The first is to “identify and capture lessons learned.” They should be properly “categorized, stored and distributed in such a manner that future project teams will be able to understand and capitalize on”. The second element is to “ensure that capabilities and benefits are realized.” Capabilities, the authors suggest, “could include employees becoming more committed and more capable”. Further, that processes are “more effective and efficient.” Benefits relates to “verifying that the deliverables that were specified at the beginning were actually provided, work correctly and satisfy customer needs.”

To the extent they know much about project management, most CCOs or compliance practitioners are aware of the “iron triangle” of factors to determine a project success. The authors define these as “cost, schedule and performance.” But the authors’ research has led them to conclude that for a project to be a success it must meet an organization’s expectations. The next evaluative point is did the project come in on time, within budget and to the project’s specifications? Finally, did the project succeed in bringing its touted positive benefits to the organization?

By using the steps the authors have outlined, a CCO can think through the organization and ongoing performance of a project to set it up for success. Equally importantly for the CCO, if the project management has been delegated to compliance team members or with other disciplines inside your organization, such as legal, internal audit, IT or human resources; the continued involvement of a CCO as the project sponsor can be key component. The authors posit, “for every project stage, there are success factors that project sponsors should consider” and that a CCO must engage in an ongoing and continual dialogue with the project manager. Finally, key lessons learned should be captured and used down the road to help facilitate other projects or issues as applicable.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2015

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