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Moving Beyond the Conformance Zone

One of the challenges companies face when addressing compliance is its dynamic nature – compliance is never at rest. Even when you decide to be proactive and start addressing non-conformance, you can never stop. However, that is what many companies do when they enter the conformance zone.

After a compliance project has done its work, companies often observe that things are better, there are fewer fires to fight, and the workplace is more engaged in standard practices. This is what it looks like when you are in the conformance zone. However, they mistakenly believe that they can now disband their project team, cut back on support, and go into maintenance mode. When they do they also go back to being reactive resulting in the inevitable loss of ground they worked so hard to gain.

Conformance Zone
Conformance Zone

This happens time and again for companies that have a project without a continuous improvement culture. Projects are used to catch up on compliance only to fall back again after the project is over. If they only continued their efforts they would have experienced life in the proactive zone where you are: always ahead, certain of compliance, and always advancing program objectives. This is where an actual return on investment (ROI) is possible.

Conformance to standard practices is only one aspect of compliance. Reducing non-conformance to standards is necessary, however, it is also important to understand that this is only one instrumental goal towards achieving program outcomes such as: fewer incidents, fewer defects, fewer toxic releases, and so on.

When you enter the conformance zone you cannot let your guard down. Continuous improvement is necessary to move beyond to the proactive zone where outcomes can be advanced. The good news is that the resources that were once needed to support reactive compliance can be moved to the proactive side to start work on program objectives. In other words, the cost of non-conformance that companies already fund can be put to better use to fund the proactive zone.

There are three risks that you must avoid if you want to improve the effectiveness of your compliance program:

  1. Staying in the reactive zone

  2. Taking your hands of the wheel when things start to improve when you enter the conformance zone

  3. Not benefiting from better outcomes in the proactive zone



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