“I don’t want a culture of compliance, I want a culture of commitment.” This simple, yet significant statement was proclaimed by the vice president of operations of a small manufacturing company as they were working to clarify the desired company culture and associated core values.

His perspective was exactly right. Compliance-thinking is minimal-thinking, where behaviours reflect the least that has to be done to comply with the law (or rule or policy). Of course organisations must be in compliance with laws and regulations, but when the focus is solely on compliance, the result is a policing environment.

Employees in a compliance-thinking culture have an ‘I have to’ attitude. ‘I have to’ people feel they have no choice and resentment builds from being forced to comply. These employees shun personal responsibility because they are not in charge of their decisions. A team of compliance-thinkers is a team that must be closely managed.

Contrast that to a commitment environment where each employee is committed to living according to the company’s core values. Commitment-thinking extends beyond what is required to what is possible.

Employees in a commitment-thinking culture have an ‘I choose to’ mentality. ‘I choose to’ people are responsible people and accept the consequences of their choices. A team of commitment-thinkers is a team that can be led to accomplish great things.

Whether explicitly recognised or not, all businesses refer to standards for decision-making. These standards are hierarchical, like rungs on a ladder. In a compliance-based culture, decisions are made from the bottom rung of the ladder. Employees in these companies ask, ‘Is it legal?’ The guiding question for companies that operate on the next, higher rung is, ‘Is it ethical?’ And from the top rung of the ladder, where values-based companies operate, the primary question is, ‘Does it honour our core values?’

Jan-Mar 2015 Issue

Black Diamond Associates