If you're responsible for monitoring compliance with organizational policy or government regulation, you sometimes tell people who have organizational power that they must stop doing what they're doing, or that they must do something differently. This can be risky or even downright dangerous. How can you manage it safely?
Even if your organization is serious about dealing with noncompliance, those not in compliance can see you as the problem. Instead of taking corrective action, they might try to curtail your authority, restrict your resources, attack you personally, or even terminate you.
To be most effective, become a tugboat captain.
Tugboats are small, powerful vessels that maneuver ships much larger than they are.
Large ships can apply tremendous forces fore-and-aft. But most large ships have relatively little ability to exert transverse forces — the very forces they need if they want to change direction.
If you monitor compliance
with policy or regulation,
become a tugboat captainTugboats aren't powerful enough to start or stop a large ship quickly, but they can control the large ship's direction. They rely on three strategies. They work with the harbor pilot on the bridge, they work in teams, and they focus on direction, not speed.
If you monitor compliance with policy or regulation, what does it mean to be a tugboat captain?
- Know your vessel
- Know that you're on a tugboat, not a large ship. You can't float the weight they do, and you can't survive the high seas like they do. You do have tremendous power for your size, and you're very maneuverable. Knowing your strengths and limitations is a key to survival.
- Know the harbor
- Know every shoal, channel, and wharf in the harbor — and every mistake other tugboat captains have made. Know just as much about the ships you maneuver. This means that you know the regulations or policies that you're responsible for monitoring, and you know the strengths and limitations of the managers who must comply.
- Work with other tugs
- Tugs usually work in teams. They rely on each other and use each other as resources. Work closely with others who monitor compliance. Share techniques and learn from each other. Coordinate action.
- Get cooperation from the bridge
- During tight maneuvers, a harbor pilot commands the ship, coordinating with tugs. Secure the cooperation of management at all levels near the level of the manager you're monitoring. Especially important: a solid and trusting relationship with your own manager.
- Focus on direction, not speed
- Tugboats aren't so good at starting or stopping large ships — instead, they try to steer them, while the ship provides fore-and-aft power. Let the manager you're monitoring provide the impetus and power for change, while you focus on the direction of the change.
The article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Choices for Widening Choices
- Choosing is easy when you don't have much to choose from. That's one reason why groups sometimes don't
recognize all the possibilities — they're happiest when choosing is easy. When we notice this
happening, what can we do about it?
- Email Antics: II
- Nearly everyone complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own
actions. Here's Part II of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
- What Makes a Good Question?
- In group discussion or group problem solving, many of us focus on being the first one to provide the
answer. The right answer can be good; but often, the right question can be better.
- Symbolic Self-Completion and Projects
- The theory of symbolic self-completion holds that to define themselves, humans sometimes assert indicators
of achievement that either they do not have, or that do not mean what they seem to mean. This behavior
has consequences for managing project-oriented organizations.
- Risk Creep: I
- Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite
our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
- You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
- I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
- A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
- …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.