Building a Common Compliance Language

Everyone needs to understand industry terminology to properly communicate.  Imagine a physician referring to a patient as a “customer,” or a lawyer calling a client a “patient;” it feels odd. Even worse, it would create communication challenges.

Every business organization has its own language, a specific terminology unique to the profession. Building a common organizational language provides many benefits:

  • A common language assures that all members of the organization understand expectations. Misunderstandings are minimized so time formerly spent on correcting errors can be spent productively.
  • Staff and patients hear consistency throughout the organization, providing a sense of cohesiveness which enhances the image and reliability of the organization.
  • A common language provides a sort of shorthand among the organization’s community of management and staff.
  • A common language creates a sense of culture for those working within the organization which can be a major factor in its success.

We use our proprietary Compliance Lifecycle Management (CLM) worksheet to help providers to outline their current processes and to rank each step’s effectiveness.  Outlining the internal methodology allows a natural development of a common language, a “complaince language,” for everyone within your organization.

At the past HCCA Institute (if you’ haven’t seen Pam Cleveland singing School House Rock’s I’m Just a Bill at our booth, you should) several folks told us they hadn’t developed a CLM or a common language, but they really wanted to.

I was happy to share with them our CLM Worksheet, and I hope that you’ll find it helpful as well. You can download it below.

Remember, an effective, comprehensive methodology will usually include:

  • Identification and documentation of new regulations
  • Assessing relevance (Click here to read more about how to gauge relevance quickly)
  • Translation into business requirements, also known as “the specific activities required to comply”
  • Communication of requirements to stakeholders
  • Execution of activities required to comply
  • Monitoring and validation that required activities have been completed
  • Demonstration of the steps you’ve taken to comply

Click here to download our Compliance Lifecycle  Management worksheet.  Contact us if you have any questions!  We would love to help your organization to begin using the same language!

Faster Compliance Using “Command Signals”

You don’t want to waste time on regs that don’t matter to you!

Whether it’s a new reg from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), or your state’s Health Department, one of the 1st steps required for compliance is gauging the new regs’ relevance to your organization.

We’ve analyzed and translated over 15,000 regulations into business requirements, Every business requirement we create includes relevance testing; we know how to do this…pretty well.

Here’s a powerful tip that will help you make the relevance decision quickly (and comply faster).

  • Create a list of command signals. These are words and phrases within a regulation that identify or “signal” compliance actions to be taken by regulated entities.  Command signals act as flags which help in the determination of relevance.
  • Break your list down between mandatory command signals, those requiring action, and permissive signals, those permitting action
  • When reviewing a regulation do a search for the command signals,. When you find them, it is likely you will find parameters which relate to whether or not the reg applies to you.

Here are some examples of command signals we use:

Mandatory Signals

  • Shall
  • Must
  • Should
  • Required to…
  • Obligated to…
  • Need to…
  • Have to…
  • Have until [Date] to

Permissive Signals

  • May
  • Can
  • Permitted to…
  • …is/are permitted
  • Allowed to…
  • …is/are allowed
  • …is/are optional

So if you are interested in faster compliance, think about building your own set of command signals. If you’re interested in learning more about our complete list (happy to share) contact me at .

youCompli Announces New Software

youCompli post Gazette

Recently the Pittsburgh Post Gazette did a nice article on our new platform.  Click the link below to check it out.


Three Themes Shared By Uber, Airbnb, and Compliance…

I Believe Compliance Is On The Cusp Of Something Huge……something that will completely change the way that compliance work is done.

How would I know?

Because we’ve seen this before, in just the last few years.

Think back to 2007, before Uber and Airbnb were founded. Doesn’t seem like very long ago, but a lot has changed since then.

These were mature, “boring” industries that appeared to have settled on a way of doing things. If I wanted to drive for a living, I probably worked for a taxi company. I received my hourly rate and my employer made the rest. If I lived in a home or apartment, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to make money from it. It’s not as if there were a line of people around the block waiting to rent it when I went away. That was what for hotels were for.

We all know how those boring industries have changed since then.

But did we see it coming? What were the common themes that led to the change?

  1. Existing assets were underutilized
  1. Individuals wanted more control
  1. Mobility and technology advances expanded what was possible

Sound familiar? It should…

Under-utilized Assets – Uber, Air BnB and others take advantage of under-utilized assets.   You may not think of it this way, but compliance knowledge is incredibly under-utilized.   Your ability to evaluate regs and create compliance programs is valuable to any organization needing to comply.  The question is how do you take that capability and scale it across those organizations.

Control and Independence – People today want more control over their professional aspirations.  Often this desire is attributed to millennials, but more and more people of all ages expect to be able to work where and when they want — and be able to build a successful career while doing so.

Technology – Advances in technology are either in place or are being developed which are facilitating this change. IBM’s Watson (artificial intelligence software) is able to dispense legal advice within seconds with 90 percent accuracy. This is trouble for lawyers, particularly young ones entering the job market, because humans are only accurate 70 percent of the time.  Technology systems for compliance are evolving.

This phenomenon of disruption is going to grow, and it’s going to change the supply and demand dynamics of many things — including compliance.

Frustration With Flying Can Improve Compliance

I hate when I’m on a flight that is delayed and they don’t explain to me why.   I marvel at people who can sit quietly resting their eyes or reading a book; I can’t.   I grind my teeth, fidget, and am generally miserable.  I want to know why we are delayed.

Most of the time the pilot doesn’t tell…and it drives me nuts.  I feel demeaned, and frustrated.  My guess is many of you share my feelings.

My frustration provides a great lesson for compliance professionals looking to build a culture of compliance.

Share information as much as possible.

When someone explains their rationale for a decision they validate that their decision affects me.   The non-verbal message is I matter; everyone likes to matter.

A compliance environment that enables and encourages transparency and open communication (sharing) will go a long way toward fostering trust and building that compliance culture all compliance professionals seek.

Bet You’re Glad You’re Not The Chief Compliance Officer At Theranos!

Anyone wanting to take a swipe at their compliance department should pay close attention to Theranos.  This once high-flying unicorn is getting hammered.

For those not aware.  Theranos (with a reported private valuation of $9 billion), publicly stated that their only product, which has been used to diagnose conditions and inform treatments for patients, doesn’t work.

The company told the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that it issued tens of thousands of corrected blood-test reports to doctors and patients, voiding some results and revising others. (GULP)

That sounds awfully serious, doctors may have made health decisions with erroneous results.     

A brief google search does not uncover the poor schlub responsible for compliance at Theranos.   My guess is (and it’s just a guess) that there was not a lot of emphasis placed on compliance in this organization.

Good compliance both builds and preserves value…I wonder how those private investors who got in recently are feeling about compliance today.

Regulators Gone Wild

In 2013 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission slapped an energy company with two separate $500,000 fines for a natural gas explosion that killed five people in Allentown. You know, killed.  As in dead. These are people just like those from your neighborhood. $1M dollars total.

In 2016 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the same regulator, fined Uber $11.4 million for providing rides to people in PA without state permission. Rides. You know, like the kind you give your kid to baseball practice daily. Rides. $11.4 million. For a mile or two.

If the massive difference seems strange to you, well you’re in good company. Two of the regulators current commissioners were even opposed to the fine. Or maybe, they should have been opposed to how low the fine was for the energy companies.

What are the energies at play here? Why was the energy company given a pass and Uber hit so hard with the fine? Are there dollars behind the scenes? Well, one would never suggest that, because it would just be speculation of course. It could also be inertia where this-is-the-way-we-have-always-fined-the-gas-companies, so it is a “reasonable fine.” That is the way we do it in Pennsylvania and if the gas company appeals former fines will be what they would point back to as precedence.

Entrepreneurs have a serious up-hill battle when they look to disrupt entrenched thinking. Trying to change the way products or services are made, consumed, or both, forces people to do things differently, and that requires a delicate approach to the existing systems of power that are in place, and those who don’t want to lose their power–their perception of power actually.



How To Say NO And Still Feel The LOVE

If you’ve read my previous posts your familiar with what I refer to as the “Compliance Effect”. Often, as compliance professionals, people are not always happy to see us when we walk in the room. They noticeably shrink in their seats just waiting to hear us deliver the news that they can’t do something because of the “rules”.

However, in order to minimize the sting of the word “no” there are ways in which compliance officers can more effectively communicate.


We can adjust our communication style to more effectively connect with people.  It is no different than when we talk with our children or a beloved grandparent. We adjust how we communicate with them. We must reflect how the person is talking with us. Are they calm? Are they high energy? In my work, if I’m talking to someone who is more laid-back, I want to respect their personal way of communicating and I too become more laid-back.  We must mirror how they are communicating so that they are comfortable with us.


The same holds true in listening.  We must adjust our needs to communicate and really listen because we really need to understand what it is they are trying to do. This takes effort and concentration because most of the time we are trying to explain our own position. By being patient and listening to the challenges the person is facing and letting them “get it all out” I find that they are more than willing at the end to listen to what I need to say, and by that time, it is very little, because I’m able to tailor the message exactly to what they need to hear.


It is important to be patient to demonstrate respect for their side of the story and also let them know that I comprehend their side of the story by reflecting not only their personal way of communicating, but also repeating back what they told me in their own words. This demonstrates both empathy on my part, but it also demonstrates flexibility on my part of being able to talk to many types of people. If you want people to love you as a compliance officer, be sure to respect a person’s communication style and really listen to where they are coming from. They have challenges too!

To effectively put these into practice will take time, effort and energy.  Be patient, persevere and you can still feel the love…even if your delivering “no”.


Are You Undervaluing Your Knowledge?

Your ability to perform a task has value.  Historically that ability is valued based on several factors.  One of the most significant factors is the amount of time it takes to complete the task. 

This has created a paradigm where often we gauge our worth based on time. How much time it takes to complete a project is how we value the price of the project. When employed by a company or organization, in effect, we sell them our time.  We agree to take an amount of time and practically apply our knowledge to complete tasks in that order. 

Unfortunately, this model is limiting.

You see, your knowledge is valuable, not just inside of your company, but outside of those walls as well. There is a false sense of containment in your knowledge, limited by it’s ability to be used by only one entity. In some cases today, that isn’t true. For instance, in developing regulatory content. You can sell it not just to one outlet, but to many. 

Knowledge is the same way. Are you undervaluing your knowledge and its value in the market? New models related to how we work and earn money are being created.  How can you scale the knowledge you currently use, to earn money for yourself?


3 Ways To Minimize The “Compliance Effect”

As compliance professionals, you have all experienced the “compliance effect”. This is when you enter a meeting, elevator, or other business setting and things get a little quiet. The tension goes up…just a little bit. Sales people often deal with similar situations, so using sales strategies can help solve the problem.

So how can compliance professionals act more like sales (crazy, I know)? Here are three ways.

1) Build social relationships – Adopt a view that work is a place you spend half your waking life; it’s an opportunity to build social relationships. Try to find common interests. When you visit a colleague’s work area “steal with your eyes”- looking for clues that allow you to have more comfortable conversations.

For some, building new social relationships can be a little awkward, but keep in mind today’s close friends were once strangers.

2) Be an effective listener – This is actually a science. If you Google it, you’ll be amazed at the volume of info available on the subject.

Usually people focus their attention on their own views in conversation. Effective listening compensates for this tendency by focusing on others’ views.

3) Be Caring – Conventional wisdom tells us that caring does not belong in business, I disagree. Genuinely caring about your colleagues provides the opportunity to understand their challenges.

One great way to create a more caring environment is to celebrate milestones. Celebrating milestones (birthdays, anniversaries) with a simple card or an email (card is better) shows we can celebrate the little things that really bring us together.

Every interaction we have is an opportunity to build positive relationships with others. Put these tips into practice and maybe you will see less of the compliance effect and more relationship effectiveness.