FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

April 10, 2014

Asking Questions To Build Your Compliance Program

IMG_3289On this day in 1932 President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) enacted the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) declaring a “government worthy of its name must make a fitting response” to the suffering of the unemployed. He waxed poetic when lobbying for its passage, declaring “the forests are the lungs of our land [which] purify our air and give fresh strength to our people.” Of FDR’s many New Deal policies, the CCC is considered by many to be one of the most enduring and successful. It provided the model for future state and federal conservation programs. From 1933 to 1942, the CCC employed over 3 million men.

The CCC, also known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” was open to unemployed, unmarried US male citizens between the ages of 18 and 25. All recruits had to be healthy and were expected to perform hard physical labor. Enlistment in the program was for a minimum of 6 months; many re-enlisted after their first term. Participants were paid $30 a month and often given supplemental basic and vocational education while they served. Under the guidance of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, CCC employees fought forest fires, planted trees, cleared and maintained access roads, re-seeded grazing lands and implemented soil-erosion controls. The CCC was a solution that was right for the place and time but its effects have lasted up through this day. There are still CCC built national parks and other facilities in use. We still drive over bridges built by the CCC.

I thought about the CCC, how it was such an effective organization for its time and how the results of its efforts have lasted over 80 years, in some cases, when I read an article in the April issue of Inc. magazine, entitled “35 Great Questions”, where Paul Graham, Jim Collins and other business leaders looked at some of questions that thought business leaders should be asking of themselves and of their teams. While the focus was not on compliance and ethics, many of the questions clearly could be viewed through such a prism. The key is that by asking good questions, as listed below, it “opens people to new ideas and possibilities.”

  1. How can we become the company that would put us out of business?
  2. Are we relevant? Will we be relevant five years from now? Ten?
  3. If energy were free, what would we do differently?
  4. What is it like to work for me?
  5. If we weren’t already in this business, would we enter it today? And if not, what are we going to do about it?
  6. What trophy do we want on our mantle?
  7. Do we have bad profits?
  8. What counts that we are not counting?
  9. In the past few months, what is the smallest change we have made that has had the biggest positive result? What was it about that small change that produced the large return?
  10. Are we paying enough attention to the partners our company depends on to succeed?
  11. What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader?
  12. What are the implications of this decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now?
  13. Do I make eye contact 100 percent of the time?
  14. What is the smallest subset of the problem we can usefully solve?
  15. Are we changing as fast as the world around us?
  16. If no one would ever find out about my accomplishments, how would I lead differently?
  17. Which customers can’t participate in our market because they lack the skills, wealth, or convenient access to existing solutions?
  18. Who uses our products in ways we never expected?
  19. How likely is it that a customer would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?
  20. Is this an issue for analysis or intuition?
  21. Who, on the executive team or the board, has spoken to a customer recently?
  22. Did my employees make progress today?
  23. What one word do we want to own in the minds of our customers, employees and partners?
  24. What should we stop doing?
  25. What are the gaps in my knowledge and experience?
  26. What am I trying to prove to myself, and how might it be hijacking my life and business success?
  27. If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do?
  28. If I had to leave my organization for a year and the only communication I could have with employees was a single paragraph, what would I write?
  29. What have we, as a company, historically been when we’ve been at our best?
  30. What do we stand for – and what are we against?
  31. Is there any reason to believe the opposite of my current belief?
  32. Do we underestimate the customer’s journey?
  33. Among our stronger employees, how many see themselves at the company in three years? How many would leave for a 10 percent raise from another company?
  34. What did we miss in the interview for the worst hire we ever made?
  35. Do we have the right people on the bus?

As a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) many of these questions could be adapted to the compliance function or directly asked of you, your leadership and your team. One of the thing that bedevils many CCOs is time to think, plan and consider what Warren Berger, the author of “A More Beautiful Question”, says is the “inquiry’s ability to trigger divergent thinking, in which the mind seeks multiple, sometimes non-obvious paths to a solution.”

I often say that a key role for a CCO is listening but equally important is asking questions. Inc.’s list of thought-provoking questions can give you some excellent ideas about areas to explore with your compliance team, your senior management and the employees in your company. So start asking questions and start listening.

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, 2014




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