Updated: Jan 14, 2019
Compliance can either be a "necessary evil" or a "necessary good".
The path you choose will determine:
whether you are reactive or proactive,
your approach to risk, and
the effectiveness of achieving your outcomes.
The path of "necessary evil" is fraught with uncertainty and is driven by inspections and audits. You are always behind and always catching up. Even with the multitude of action items that come from these audits, you cannot "react" your way to better outcomes in the same way that you cannot inspect your way to better quality.
The path of "necessary good" is one that not everyone takes. It is based on: anticipating, planning, and acting to be more certain about meeting compliance obligations. It is a road less traveled because it requires a desire for better outcomes, instead of maintaining the status quo. This is the difference between leading and managing compliance and leadership is in short supply.
Not choosing is also a choice. It's a decision to "just see what happens" and hope that everything will turn out alright. Unfortunately, this also leads to reactive compliance. In fact, it is far worse than the path of "necessary evil" as nothing is done even to mitigate the effects of non-compliance.
When it comes to compliance, you must choose a path to take. You can take the highway that is frequently traveled by those who believe compliance is a "necessary evil." Here you may find comfort at least in knowing that many others are taking this path too.
Or, you can take the road less traveled, and be in the company of those that want more than just to pass an audit. You will be with those that want to see: better outcomes, improved safety, increased quality, appropriate risk, less environmental damage, and more meaningful work, and through it all earn the trust from their stakeholders.
It's up to you. Which path will you take?