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Is Your Culture Holding you Back?

The very culture that keeps companies in highly-regulated, high-risk industries safe may be the very thing that is holding them back from making improvements and advancing overall compliance outcomes.

Companies in this space tend to be hierarchical with respect to their organizational structure which often closely aligns with the asset structures they are operating. This provides clear lines of accountability, better consistency of behaviors and practices, and greater conformance to procedures and standards. Efficiency and reliability are their by-words. You don't want workers to "innovate" when they are doing their job. You want them to follow safe-work practices and life-saving rules so that people and businesses are kept safe.

However, increasingly these same companies are being asked (regulated) to improve, to innovate, and to make progress on their compliance objectives not just perform at existing levels. This requires a different culture that is more proactive, goal-directed, and risk-taking. This culture is opposed to the very one that that keeps them in business today.

Instead of one culture to govern them all, companies may benefit from a diversity of cultures specific to the task at hand. Geoffrey Moore's book Zone to Win does a great job at outlining the activities of a business and what characterizes each part (or zone). Each zone has its own management, behaviors, and practices specific to what is needed to accomplish the objectives for each zone. Each zone effectively has its own culture.

The Competing Value Framework developed by Cameron and Quinn (2006) provides additional insights into organizational cultures based on four classifications: CLAN, ADHOCRACY, HIERARCHY, and MARKET cultures as shown in the following figure:

Cameron and Quinn (2006)

This framework has been used extensively by organizations to help them navigate their cultures and make necessary adjustments. For compliance to be effective it is helpful to consider which culture is best across governance, program, system, and process layers.

For example, a proactive approach may benefit from a culture that values creativity and collaboration to identify strategies to better achieve outcomes. However, when these strategies have been decided what is more important is consistency and conformance which benefits from a culture that is more controlling oriented.



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