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Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Playing by the Rules

regulated industries reveal ways to help spread best practices

There are actually 6 case studies related to complying with
internal and external "rules of the game"
(jump quickly to the case descriptions).

Do your employees play by the rules? The "rules" include the key strategies management has developed to ensure success, and the best practices that will maximize efficiency, impact, and profitability (more about that in this "Think Piece").

Playing by the rules is crucial to your success.

Learning from industries that HAVE to
play by the rules

Even if the "rules", the best practices you want to spread, are entirely voluntary and internally generated, everyone can learn from situations where the rules are externally mandated, and where "non-compliance" with those rules has severe consequences. In general, we're talking about legal and regulatory constraints.

In short, when the consequence of breaking the rules of the game is an expensive lawsuit, or even being shut down by the state or federal government, you absolutely must be able to depend on front-line employees to play by the rules.

Because "compliance" is so important in these situations, companies have put a lot of thought, money, and effort into making sure external requirements are met. That means that everyone can learn from their experience, whatever your industry, and whether the rules you're worried about are internal and voluntary or external and mandatory.

The Industry: Banking and Financial Services

If you've taken out a loan for a car, or a mortgage, there was a lot of fine print attached. Most of that is dictated by federal and state regulators, working to ensure you are properly informed about your rights and options.

The consequences of not playing by the rules of the came, in this industry, can be a sudden and catastrophic termination of your business.

With those kinds of stakes in play, it is no wonder that many financial services have put enormous time, energy, and money into ensuring their employees play by the rules. And that means that the rest of us, who want to see best practices followed as the rules of the game in our own organizations, can learn from all the attention these businesses have given to this issue.

The Solutions:

The case studies listed below present 6 different methods used to guide employees toward compliance with regulations. All of these businesses delivered financial services, but not all of the business functions dealt directly with customers. Of course, these various methods are often combined in much larger curricula that address management expectations for the organization.

In other words, in each case, the particular behaviors that needed change, and the corporate, business, and regulatory context for those changes, suggested dealing with particular obstacles to change with particular tools:

  1. Build Awareness. "Business as usual" can be a tough habit to break. In an operations function for a large company, changing the thinking and practices around the annual budget process proved challenging -- and some unusual "situations" helped loosen up employee thinking so that truly new practices could be embraced.
  2. Tell and Show. Seeing is believing, AFTER seeing is understanding. Well-intentioned bankers sometimes delivered customer service that brought regulatory attention, but it was hard for them to see how someone who "meant well" could be held accountable for not "doing well". Telling them what is really happening, and then demonstrating that for them in natural interactions, opened their eyes.
  3. We mean it! Sometimes there's nothing like an endorsement from leaders. When it comes to something like following regulations, employees sometimes come to believe the cutting corners is what is wanted, even though management really expects full compliance. Straight talk from the top, directly to the front lines, can put a stop to that thinking.
  4. Accountability. Sometimes you have to know what they know. In this case, the legal and compliance departments recognized that employees meant to follow regulations, but just didn't take that to the level of detail that was required. Administering an objective test of their knowledge at the conclusion of the training focused trainee attention at the right level.
  5. Removing Obstacles. If it's too hard to find needed information, people just wing it! When one company realized that key procedures, their "rules of the game", were scattered in different locations and different formats, they knew that people couldn't use them efficiently in their daily work with customers. Pulling the information into an on-line format that provided instant information to bankers at their desks removed an obstacle to compliance, and provided opportunities to enhanced the quality of the procedures as well.
  6. Assessment. When everyone's following best practices . . . but different ones! It is quite common for management and the front lines to be playing by different rulebooks, without anyone realizing it. In this case, surveys of both groups revealed some striking differences about how people thought things actually worked in the company!
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The Rules of


Build Awareness

Tell and Show

We mean it!


Removing Obstacles