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Is Compliance A Zero-Sum Game?

Back in the day I would visit bookstores in the places that I travelled particularly for work. Browsing the book isles was one way you could get a sense for what the current trends were and which way the wind was blowing.

This for me was a from of sense-making. Trying to determine what is relevant in a sea of constant change. You could say that going to the Gemba for me was going to the bookstore.

Today, you can do the same thing by using Google’s N’grams based on google books. And here is what you would find:

Google Ngram Viewer
  • Quality peaked in 1992 and is now in decline (around the time that ISO 9001 was introduced and the quality movement was at its peak).

  • Risk as a general topic continues to grow and dominates the discussion across all risk & compliance domains.

  • Safety, Security, and Fraud have peaked and on the decline since 2000. Perhaps as a result of Y2K no longer being an issue.

  • Regulation is near the bottom and declining.

  • Cyber, Sustainability, Climate, are on the uptick but still way behind the others.

What could this all mean?

  • Less books are being written on the various topics.

  • Traditional risk and compliance theory and practice have stalled i.e. nothing new is being added to the discussion.

  • New compliance concerns are starting to take over.

  • Compliance is a zero-sum game i.e. focus on something new takes away from existing resources.

If the last one turns out to be true, then it is likely we will see organizations reallocate existing resources to tackle new areas of risk.

To meet the new demand without sacrificing existing risk & compliance performance organizations must find ways to leverage existing capabilities.

This will include one or more of the following:

  1. Apply LEAN principles and practices to reduce waste.

  2. Apply Risk Management principles and practices to focus on what really matters.

  3. Take a Holistic view of systems and processes to ensure the parts all work together to realize compliance outcomes.

  4. Embed compliance into processes to ensure the organization always stays between the lines.

  5. Leverage common principles and practices across all risk & compliance programs.

  6. Apply Proactive and Preventive strategies to stay ahead of risk



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