In this episode, I consider the first novel, A Study in Scarlet. There are two items of note that I learnt in researching this work. The first is that it was written in 1886 and even Conan Doyle had trouble finding a publisher for what went on to become the most famous detective character of all-time. The second was the title. I had always thought it referred to the color of blood but it turns out that it comes from a speech given by Holmes to Dr. Watson on the nature of his work, in which he describes the story's murder investigation as his “study in scarlet”: “There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.” Furthermore, a ‘study’ is a preliminary drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished piece. The story informs today’s topic about using power.
While many compliance departments may have begun more as a command and control function, set up by lawyers to comply with anti-bribery laws such as the FCPA; this type of leadership model is now becoming outmoded in today’s world. It is not that employees are interested in the ‘why’ they should do business ethically and in compliance with such laws but it is more that power is shifting inside corporations. In a HBR article, entitled “Understanding “New Power””, authors Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms explore how leadership dynamics are changing and what companies might be able to do to harness them.
The authors have three prescriptions that I found could be useful for the CCO or compliance practitioner to incorporate into a mature and evolving compliance program moving forward. Compliance functions need to “engage in three essential tasks: (1) assess their place in a shifting power environment, (2) channel their harshest critic, and (3) develop a mobilization capacity.
Assess where you are
This prong is quite close to something compliance practitioners are comfortable with in their role, a risk assessment. However the authors suggest that the assessment be turned inward so you should assess the compliance function on this “new power compass—both where you are today and where you want to be in five years.”
Incorporate business unit interests
If you are going to ask the business unit to be a significant partner or better yet be your business partner, you will need to have a mechanism in place to engage your business unit so there can be an inflow of input before the compliance function has an output of requirements. As the authors write, “This level of introspection has to precede any investment in any new power mechanisms” to which I would add any successful compliance function.
Mobilize your capacity
Here I suggest you consider contracted third parties and other third parties such as joint venture (JV) partners as an avenue through which the compliance function can bring greater benefits to an organization.
As the compliance profession matures, it will become more a component of a company’s business function. This means less of a lawyer’s top down mentality of do it because I said to do it, to more collaboration. It also means, as with the premier of Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarletthat something new is on the horizon and it could be here for quite sometime to come.
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