Compliance stems from our need to ensure certainty, reduce variability and adhere to a certain structure or model. Compliance may be explicit (e.g. to a certain process model like ISO) or it may be implicit (e.g. to a certain specific belief system, way of working or ideology). Focusing on compliance means that you have a direction to follow and it should allow you to focus on the nuances of work without worrying about the basics. Compliance is good because it helps us stay creative, allows us to be a part of community and gives us a direction.
The problem stems when focus is only on compliance. A friend who is a senior leader in IT organization narrated his recent experience. In his quest to fix a nagging problem on a project that he had just taken over, he ended up forcing compliance to a certain process without taking time to understand the real root cause. People initially raised their concerns but then succumbed to the force. They complied dispassionately, morale went southwards and quality dropped. It took him a lot of effort and time to get things back on track, though not as great as it was before.
He made a mistake that I like to call as “Compliance without Compassion”.
To be compassionate is to understand that every problem has many facets and every situation has a context attached to it. That people will only follow rules if those rules really help them in adding value. That people need to be understood first. That sometimes, you have to look at purpose more than how a task is performed. That it is important to be cruel to be kind – being tough for a greater good.That effective solutions are the ones that consider all the facets of the problem –the context behind it. To be compassionate is to tune the process or ideology such that it yields maximum value with minimum waste. To be open to new possibilities and appreciate that others may be seeing things differently. To evolve and improve.
Compliance is always an external force. Compassion stems from within – from our desire to add value without compromising on human aspect of work.
We don’t need plain compliance. Compassion alone may not help. What we need is compassionate compliance.
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Photo Courtesy: Sendai Eyes’ Flickr Photostream