How to Stop Friction from Burning Down Your Program

Friction is “the action of one surface or object rubbing against another.” In many circumstances, friction is critical. Without it, brakes wouldn’t slow a car in motion, and striking a match wouldn’t create fire.

In business, however, friction is bad. We see this in online shopping. How many times have you abandoned a purchase after you’ve been asked to create an account, verify your email address, fill in another form, add a password, then re-login? The number of steps required to complete a sale is called “friction” in the entrepreneurial world. The more friction, the less likely the business is to get and keep customers.

Identifying Friction in Your Program

Unfortunately, compliance processes often cause friction in the business. Sometimes this is inevitable. After all, we need to slow down the contracting process with distributors to ensure proper due diligence is completed. But other times friction is unnecessary. Consider the following areas where friction may be present for employees:…

Friction is “the action of one surface or object rubbing against another.”  In many circumstances, friction is critical.  Without it, brakes wouldn’t slow a car in motion, and striking a match wouldn’t create fire.

In business, however, friction is bad. We see this in online shopping.  How many times have you abandoned a purchase after you’ve been asked to create an account, verify your email address, fill in another form, add a password, then re-login?  The number of steps required to complete a sale is called “friction” in the entrepreneurial world.  The more friction, the less likely the business is to get and keep customers.

Identifying Friction in Your Program

Unfortunately, compliance processes often cause friction in the business.  Sometimes this is inevitable.  After all, we need to slow down the contracting process with distributors to ensure proper due diligence is completed.  But other times friction is unnecessary. Consider the following areas where friction may be present for employees:

  • The frustration of going through multiple clicks to find a policy from the intranet homepage

  • The challenges in determining whether a new third-party is in-scope for due diligence

  • The difficulty in logging into the LMS systems to access eLearning

  • The length of the due diligence questionnaires and the time it takes to fill it out

  • The amount of effort it takes to find a local phone number for the whistle-blower hotline

  • The difficulty in obtaining pre-approval for n-policy gifts or entertainment

  • The number of menus to be navigated to find local in-language versions of compliance-related procedures

  • The challenges of remembering multiple log-in names and passwords to get into various systems

If a process is too onerous, people will look for ways to circumvent or avoid it.  Friction leads to frustration, and when frustrations escalate, compliance lessons. Friction should be removed wherever possible to improve compliance with processes and procedures.

How do we Remove Friction?

First, identify the places where the compliance program causes friction.  Look at each process with a critical eye.  Is there a way to make the process easier?  Can it be streamlined?  Is each step absolutely necessary?  Try to cut down the time it takes to complete each task or process.

Next, evaluate whether the instructions are clear.  There are several ways to do this.  First, pretend you know nothing about the process, then follow the published instructions to the letter.  Were you able to complete the process successfully without relying on your knowledge of how it is supposed to work?

You can also ask people in the business where they get stuck, then ask for their suggestions as to how to make it easier.  The people who have to deal with compliance controls are often the ones with the most creative ideas about how to fix them. 

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Picture of Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart is the founder and CEO of Spark Compliance.
She's a renowned expert at transforming compliance departments into in-demand business assets.