Where I work, I accompany the Auditors as they do their job.   It’s an interesting perspective having a front row view of an audit.  The Auditor has his checklist and questions in mind as he asks his “victim” all the pertinent questions.  The goal: determine compliance to whatever certifications or processes, and write up the non-compliances.  The hapless victim (auditee) has the wonderful experience of having to prove himself compliant while carefully guarding each response to make sure it doesn’t trigger the non-compliance flag from the auditor.  I see the defensive posturing whenever an actual non-compliance is observed, or even a potential one is focused on.  As I observe this back-and-forth engagement between auditor and auditee, between enforcer and the enforced, I can’t help but look at the larger picture.

Compliance is an interesting “beast”.  It shows that you’re doing the right thing.  BUT!   You have to do it.  It’s doing what’s required of you….or else!  At the very heart of Compliance is Compulsion.  And not necessarily an overt one at that.  There’s this  weird connection between the Result of doing the right thing….and feeling like you have to do it.  The compulsion is indirect…where you feel threatened or are threatened if you don’t do the right thing.  It’s “do it” or get written up.  Compliance is punitive, and that’s how it is enforced (punishment from non-compliance).    Because Compliance is by force (whether direct or indirect) and by fear, there is no loyalty behind it.  There is no commitment behind the action.  There is no passion or love behind it.  People do it to keep their position, save face, or just avoid punishment.  Thus, Compliance only results in the appearance of goodness…with a hollowness of commitment.  It’s empty goodness: it looks good but has no substance.  There’s just no truth or reality behind it.

Such was the case with a Customer Satisfaction process.  During a phone call, the caller wanted to make a complaint to a Supervisor because the support staff was not being very helpful.  The caller was told that all complaints had to be sent in by letter, and then they’d be addressed personally.  Well, the caller insisted on speaking with a Supervisor, but the customer rep held tightly to policy and procedure.

So think about this for a minute.  Customer Satisfaction requires that service organizations have metrics that demonstrate their effectiveness in dealing with customers.    Greater positive feedback means more effective customer service.  More negative feedback means less effective.   So, if the organization makes it more difficult (but not impossible) to submit complaints, and giving positive feedback is made easy, would customers be more or less willing to submit complaints?   And, when that organization’s performance is audited…what would the numbers say?  Less negative and more positive?  Did “less negative” really indicate that there really wasn’t a lot of negative feedback and that the organization was truly positive?  Or did the cumbersome complaint process keep the complaints down to a minimum?    Such an organization could show compliance and “good works” on the outside….but such results are really hollow.  However, in order to continue to exist, the organization would have to demonstrate “good service” in order to stay “compliant” with the Company.  Otherwise, there’s no “value-added” benefit for that organization, and they would be terminated.  So…be compliant…or else!

Compliance is socially-accepted compulsion.   It’s a way to manipulate people to produce a desired outcome…while getting people to psychologically accept that manipulation.  Unfortunately, because it is compulsion, you create a people who have no loyalty to the desired outcome.  They may produce what’s wanted…but they did it to keep their jobs, they did it to avoid punishment…not because they really wanted to do it.

Imagine an entire nation that always produces the “right” results (compliant)…but their heart isn’t in it. They have no desire or passion in their work. There’s no real heartfelt motivation to do the work. People are just there to do the work that they have to do.

Unfortunately, we do the same things at home.  “As long as you live in my house, you’ll follow my rules!”  “You have to share, because sharing is good.”  “If you don’t clean up your room/do your homework/finish your chores/do X,Y, or Z, you’ll be grounded/can’t use the car/punishment A, B, or C.”  Are we unwittingly raising up a Compliant Generation?   One that always Bows to some Authority figure…whether that authority is Parent/Teacher/Employer?  One that  accepts socially-accepted fear and bullying…in order to produce the right/desireable results?

The Difference with Obedience

I once taught a class where I asked for a non-engineer volunteer to come up and help with a demonstration.  A young lady raised her hand, and I had her come up to the front.  I gave her a challenge:  balance a book on top of a sheet of paper as it stands on its edge.  She was perplexed as she tried  to stand that sheet of paper on edge and place the book on it.  I asked if she would like some help.  She said, “Yes, I would.”  “You can pick anyone in the class to help you out, “ I said.  So, she chose her father-in-law.  He was a practical man, and a handy-dandy home builder as well.  Good choice.   “Roll up the sheet into a tube, and then place the book on the top,” he instructed.  Without questioning further, she did as she was instructed to do, and…whaddaya know?  It worked!

After she sat down, I asked, “Why did you choose your father-in-law instead of anyone else?”  “I trust him,” was her reply.  Alongside that Trust, if I may add, is Love.  If she didn’t love her father-in-law, would she have reason to trust him?  She chose him as an act of loyalty as well…she stuck with Family as her source of solutions.

Obedience is done because you love someone.  There is loyalty behind obedience.  You obey because you trust.  There’s commitment, there’s openness.  You produce the desired result because you wanted to…not because you had to.  And you wanted to do it because you love the one giving you the instruction.  You trusted them.  And, to demonstrate your loyalty to them, you obey them.

In the Bible, in John 14:15, Jesus teaches “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  I wonder if we misinterpret that as parents when we tell our kids, “If you love me, then you’d better do what I say.”  I wonder if we mis-speak when we say, “If you loved me, you’d do X, Y, or Z”.  For some reason, Jesus never really wanted us to be “Compliant” to Heaven’s laws.  To me, this scripture means, “keep my commandments…because you love me.”  It may be restated as “because you love me, you’d trust me, and you’d want to do as you’d be commanded/instructed/prompted to do.”

No matter how good something is, you can’t compel people to do it.  Whether it’s tolerance, love, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, just-ness, truthfulness.  You can’t…if you want the bona fide deal.  Just because they exhibited the right behavior doesn’t mean they willingly did it.  It doesn’t mean they did it out of love or loyalty or trust.  If they did it out of fear of repercussions, then their good behavior has no merit….because their Heart wasn’t in it.  Just like when you give a gift…but you give it grudgingly or out of obligation…then, did you really give a gift to begin with?  It didn’t count.  Nor will any good deed that is forced, compelled, or manipulated out of you.

No matter how great Heaven is, God will not force us…as his children…to be in Heaven with Him.  He wants us to choose to want to be with Him.  He wants to see us there because we wanted to be there, because we love Him enough to want to be there.  If we brought to Heaven those who never really wanted to know God to begin with, would they be happy there?  Nope.  They’d be in the presence of one they themselves despised.    Heaven is the place for those who choose to be there, who love God and want to be with Him.

So when you find yourself in the judgement seat of your company’s auditor…and the lens of compliance is upon you…take note:  Compliance is socially-accepted compulsion, enforced by fear, driven by uncertainty, and breeds no love, no trust, no loyalty.  You HAVE TO Comply.  There is no “Heart” behind compliance.  There is no choice.

With Obedience, on the other hand, you WANT TO
Obey, because you Love the one you’re obeying.  Because you trust them. You’re “Heart” is in it; it is a conscious choice.  True Obedience is a Demonstration of Trust, borne out of Love, as an Act of Loyalty…done freely, willingly, openly, and naturally…

Even if no auditor was watching you.

The LDS Lamplighter