Remember those group projects in high school? It was always a major assignment that was graded heavily. You had a deadline to turn in your work, and all the rest was up to you and your group. Typically, everyone had their own tasks to do by a certain time. The problem was, at least one or two people never did their work on time (or at all). Instead, they put it off or found excuses not to do it. Meanwhile, your project’s due date would quickly approach and you dreaded the grade you would receive.

If high school has taught us anything, it’s that group projects need accountability. And achieving compliance is no exception.

You Can’t Achieve Compliance Without Accountability

When it comes to achieving compliance, it’s imperative to keep people accountable to fulfill their tasks on time. Fall behind early and it’ll pile up fast. I’ve seen ripple effects on compliance engagements that cause disruptions in essential areas of the business. Teams let tasks pile up and now they have to switch focus simply to conclude their compliance obligations.

Like the high school project, you need to conclude your compliance engagement by an end date, and each person has their own responsibilities that other people are counting on. In the case of a compliance engagement, there are hundreds of line items to track and satisfy, across dozens of people, across numerous departments — each of which need to flow through several rounds of review prior to completion. A bottleneck early on can push back your compliance efforts by months.

All this puts you in a tough situation. Expectations are coming in from above, or from external parties. You’re playing crisis negotiator as your customers and your sales team bear down on you to fulfill your company’s obligations.

Without built-in accountability from the start of your compliance engagement, you’re almost certain to have people who don’t fulfill their obligations in a timely manner. When that happens, it creates several dysfunctional issues:

  • Communication breaks down on the team and with other stakeholders
  • Team members become frustrated with each other
  • An element of discord develops on the compliance team
  • Morale is impacted on the team, and in the organization at large

No one wants to be the cat herder who constantly hears excuses and renewed promises to get those outstanding tasks done “tomorrow.” You can avoid those problems by following these best practices to create accountability with teeth.

What No One Tells You About Achieving Compliance for the First Time

Get Executive Support

Accountability starts with your leaders. In fact, executive support is the single most important element for establishing accountability to your compliance team. The frontline person spearheading this effort needs the support of leadership — from their immediate supervisor all the way up the chain of command.

The C-level executives need to view compliance as critical for the company, and walk the talk. That means prioritizing the compliance efforts AND balancing that priority against other projects that compete for time and resources.

If your company’s leaders only give lip service to the importance of achieving compliance, you can count on falling behind almost right out of the gate. But real and material support from the executive team will set the foundation for a successful compliance engagement.

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Establish an Escalation Path

If you have executive support, you can develop a clear and effective escalation plan. This is the teeth of your accountability.

Establish an escalation path early on, so that everyone knows what happens if assignments don’t get completed on time. This gives your point person the ability to take up issues with a team member’s manager, and the manager’s manager, and so on.

Present the escalation plan on Day One so that everyone knows what’s expected from the start. It isn’t fun to escalate to people’s bosses. No one wants to be in that position. But if you don’t establish expectations from Day One, then people get incensed when you do go to their boss.

As you develop your escalation plan, keep in mind that delays might not be your team members’ fault — perhaps the schedule was too ambitious, or they’re getting overloaded with additional work from their supervisors. There may be factors outside of their control that are creating the bottleneck. Your escalation path should accommodate those scenarios.

Dig deeper: 6 Keys to Building a Kickass Compliance Program

Communicate Frequently

Ensure you have frequent, recurring, without-fail communication among your team members. Schedule status meetings on a regular basis — at least weekly. And protect those meetings. Don’t give yourselves permission to cancel or skip out of any of those meetings — they’re critical to the smooth progress of your compliance engagement. Shift all your other commitments around these meetings.

Also be sure that you have active communication with team members who have outstanding assignments. They need to understand and pay attention to their responsibilities. Treat due dates as set in stone. If you fudge on one item, it pushes others back. Before you know it, you have a ripple effect that you can’t undo, and you could find yourself way behind schedule.

Keep Management in the Loop

If you want your leadership to support your efforts, you’ll need to give them visibility into your compliance engagement: what tasks are open, what needs to be done, by whom, and by when.

If leadership doesn’t know what’s going on — except that their personnel keep getting pulled away to “go do stuff for compliance” — you won’t have the support you need from supervisors. Make management a part of the responsibility chain and give them the visibility they need to support your efforts.

Use the Right Tools

The last thing you need is to make accountability onerous for you and your team. You have enough to do without manually tracking assignment due dates, progress toward completion, communications between team members, and status updates to management.

If you have the right compliance management system, you can automate those tasks and keep all of your accountability efforts in one centralized location. Better yet, you can see your team’s task status across hundreds of line items with just a quick glance

TCT Portal is the compliance management tool that makes it easy to build accountability into your compliance engagement. It’s the system I desperately wished I had when I was trying to achieve compliance for the first time.

TCT Portal has everything you need for accountability with teeth:

  • Communicate entirely through the system
  • Keep all your records and status updates in one place
  • Provide complete visibility to anyone who needs it
  • View status at a glance
  • Daily (weekdays) status emails to personnel with open tasks in their hands
  • Ability to manually remind people as needed

Compliance management isn’t easy, but TCT Portal makes it substantially easier, and it helps you keep your sanity in the midst of such an enormous undertaking.

Don’t let your compliance efforts become more painful than they need to be. Establish accountability before you begin and set yourself up to avoid the frustrations of a compliance engagement that you can’t control.

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