Compliance, groundskeepers, and chalk lines

Bacon Field, Hopewell, NJ. Photo by author.
Bacon Field, Hopewell, NJ. Photo by author.

This Friday night, my son’s “Babe Ruth Prep” baseball team had its first game of the Fall Ball season. So I found myself, under a clear sky, raking the infield dirt and laying down chalk for the foul lines and the batter’s box. And I had a thought:

“Even here, even now, I’m leading compliance!”

So as I raked, I wondered: is there a parallel between the Compliance Officer and the Groundskeeper?

I mean, compliance is in large part about winning while staying inside the lines. But for an organization, who paints those lines?

Government? Regulators? An industry Code? Your Code of Conduct? Sure, but not precisely. The Rules of the Game may specify that the foul line extends from the first base line and the third base line.. But it is still the compliance team that has to paint the lines precisely.

To push my metaphor way too far, compliance leadership has to decide the slope of the base path, and the tendency of slow grounders to stay in bounds or to roll foul. And to abandon the realism of my metaphor, we have to decide whether to paint the lines on our own field with a little cushion, so minor fouls don’t really cross the legal line… or paint the lines wide, to give our organizations a bigger playing field but also a bigger risk of stumbling out of bounds.

The author's first-base line left something to be desired, but did not ultimately affect the course of play.
The author’s first-base line left something to be desired, but did not ultimately affect the course of play.

But most of all, as compliance leaders we have to do the painting. The Rules may say where the foul line should be, but the players would be left to just guess what’s foul and what’s not if we didn’t draw an actual line that they can see while they are playing.  Our teammates rely on our education programs and our communications to know where the dividing line falls.

And by the way, the umpire might have checked to see where I drew the line (or he might not have), but once play began, he relied on the white line I put down in chalk. It’s a big responsibility.

Then I was aroused from this musing by the realization that the game was about to begin, and that I needed to get off the field, and get on the sidelines to help coach my players to success.

Play ball!


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