A Proverbial Approach to Success

GRC-Wisdom

There is a wealth of wisdom to be found in classic proverbs.

I am a quirky individual. One quirk, of which I am acutely aware, is my tendency to reference traditional English proverbs to summarize a point. We have all heard and used one or many of these famous proverbs at one time or another. While my wife, kids, friends and coworkers love to roll their eyes and give me grief for this particular personality trait, I am a firm believer that many of these proverbs have stood the test of time for a reason, and several of them are used quite frequently to this day (Check the origin stories for many of these proverbs.)

I think the reason that quoting these proverbs can be seen as quirky behavior, is that I often throw them out in a way where I’m simply stating the obvious. When your friend tells you how frustrating it is to put in a great deal of work on a proposal that their management just won’t buy into, and you say, “you can lead a horse, to water but you can’t make him drink,” you’re really not bringing much to the table. But because I do believe there is wisdom within them, I will take this opportunity to invoke some of my favorite proverbs and put them into terms that might provoke thought and prove to be useful when applied to the challenges you find yourself facing every day.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
This proverb often leaves a lot of people scratching their heads, but to me it’s pretty straightforward. If taken literally, you might think that if I had a hole in a piece of clothing, better to expend the time and effort to put in one stitch rather than nine times the effort down the road. To put it another way, if you are facing an issue that you know will require effort to address, you are much wiser to spend the time addressing it as soon as it becomes known rather than waiting until it grows into something that will require significantly more effort, or worse, becomes totally irreparable. In my everyday work, I apply this saying when I take the time to craft specific business requirements for a process implementation. I would rather spend the time working through each line of the requirements document and resolve all issues and concerns before I set down the path of designing and implementing the process. If I simply assume that the requirements are fine and progress into design and build phase of my engagement without formal buy in, it will take significantly more time, effort and energy to back out of what I’ve done to address any subsequent issues. The proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” also comes to mind here.

A Chain Is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link
I currently work for a small business. In the course of my consulting work I usually work with bigger teams in very large organizations. Throughout my career, I have worked for companies, departments and teams of all sizes. Regardless of the situation, this proverb has held true time and time again. It never seems to matter how many people you have involved in an initiative – the strongest members can only carry that team so far. If you have a team of ten people with two all-stars, seven solid performers and one under performer, it only takes one action by that under performer to tarnish the reputation of the entire team. Another way to state this could be, “A few bad apples spoil the bunch,” but the message is the same. It takes focus and effort from everyone involved to ensure that the expectations of the team and reality of what they are able to deliver are in line.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words
While many of the proverbs are structured and phrased in a more “old English” sort of manner, this one gets right to the point in a very modern, straightforward way. It’s very easy to talk about what needs to be done or explain why you did something a certain way or even drone on endlessly about why a project has failed. None of the words you can say will amount to anything if action is not taken to address the issue. While there are certainly risks involved with committing to a specific course of action as you set out to accomplish your goals or solve a problem, inaction can and likely will be downright crippling and devastating, all but ensuring your goals go unmet and your problems fester and grow. Also remember that “procrastination is the thief of time” – the longer you delay action, the fewer resources you will have at your disposal once you finally set yourself to the task.

A Poor Workman Always Blames His Tools
Much of my consulting work involves leveraging various technologies to enhance a business processes. Some of the business problems I’ve encountered in my time using these tools have been more challenging than others, but our goal always remains the same – maximize the technology’s benefits while working around the shortcomings. We all have our wish lists, and most of us realize that there comes a time where compromises must be made. Yet, I have also see my fair share of situations where individuals become mired in what the tool can’t do, what functions and features it doesn’t have and how they won’t get any benefit out of it. While I can certainly understand the need and desire to have certain features available to help you do your work in a more effective and enjoyable manner, much of the complaining I have seen has either been over minor features that seemingly don’t add much value or, worse, the missing functionality are identified long after the software selection process has passed (putting the user squarely into “stitch in time” territory). The bottom line is that there isn’t a tool out there that will give you 100% of what you need (or think you need), and more often than not we are left to do the best with what we have. Blaming a tool for the inability to accomplish objectives is certainly easy and at times acceptable, but that doesn’t mean you will be released from your own responsibility in the matter.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
I use this final proverb to remind myself that I can’t expect to do it all at once. I tend to get a bit impatient in my work and I always want my projects to be farther along than they are regardless of where I am in the project. But sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s OK to slow down, be deliberate, and simply think through things. I don’t always have my hands on the keyboard or facilitating a meeting to be making positive contributions to the overall effort. My brain is my biggest asset, and I need to be comfortable with moving at a sensible pace. After all, “haste makes waste,” so it’s perfectly acceptable to stop and smell the roses every now and again.

What proverbs ring true for you? I’d love to hear your feedback!

–Jason Rohlf, OrangePoint

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Don’t Let Your Big Data Be a Big Mess

GRC-Family

Looking at the meta-data of this generic stock photo, we can tell it’s 202 pixels tall, 300 pixels wide, 69.5 KB and uploaded on 10 September 2013. But does that information provide any real insight into what the photo offers?

The amount of data we are exposed to, both professionally and personally, is expanding wildly. This expansion is happening while the amount of investment necessary to store this data diminishes. Since storing information is so cheap now, there’s no real disincentive to becoming a “data hoarder.” While data hoarding has a lot fewer health risks than knick-knack hoarding, if you don’t manage your inbound data well, you can end up equally overwhelmed and paralyzed when you realize the mess you’ve made.

A Thousand Pictures Is Worth a Few Words
Let me illustrate this with an example. My household doesn’t lack for children. My wife and I try our best to capture as many memories of our munchkins as we can in pictures. I can store the 4GBs of pictures and videos from 2013 on an external drive that’s small enough to fit on my key chain. (That same volume of data would consume 2,844 3.5-inch disks in “olden” days.)

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Enhance Your GRC Projects with New Perspectives

GRC-Perspectives

Rubin’s vase is a classic example of how different perspectives can change what you see. A fresh look at your GRC project can provide you with a new perspective as well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to gain some new perspectives and completely change surroundings. Not only did I transition to a new client, but I made a geographical move across the country. New office, new client coworkers, new breakfast and lunch locales – even a new time zone! I’ve traded in all of my routines for a fresh start, and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve learned a variety of new things about myself that I would not have been able to do had I stayed in my old surroundings.

When in the middle of a GRC technology implementation, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. While we spend time checking off the business requirements, if we’re not careful we may be solving for trivial problems and missing a chance to add real value to the organization. If not written well, requirements documents become just a “wish list” of levers, dials and knobs aimed at simplifying existing aspects of the overall process. The core process is never questioned; the job of the new system is just to “clean it up” or “make it smoother.”

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Don’t Paint Your Core Values Short: 3 Actions for Promoting Ethical Behavior

GRC-Values

Are your core values just wallpaper or are they a true expression of how your employees behave?

As a consultant, I’ve stayed in numerous hotel rooms of wide ranging quality. One common thread that connects all hotels, from the lavish Leela Palace of Bangalore to Joe’s Motel of “I booked last minute and just pray it has running water,” is wall art. No matter the location, quality or style of your locale, rest assured that throughout the building and in your room there will be non-descript, non-attention grabbing paintings adding subtle textures to the walls.

Your office may have similar, subtle images across its walls. These images likely have branded colors, invoke a warm message but are often ignored by the people that pass by. Allow me to introduce you to one of the most prevalent types of wall art in corporate life: your company’s core values.

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Failure Is an Option

GRC-SuccessThroughFailure

Success and failure don’t have to be separate destinations. What detours have you encountered on your GRC journey?

I am a failure.

It’s time to come clean and admit that I have frequently (and at times remarkably) fallen short of what’s expected of me. Whether we choose to admit it or not, everybody fails. Einstein was written off as a dullard by his teachers. Abraham Lincoln failed at business, went bankrupt twice and was defeated in numerous campaigns for public office. Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.” JK Rowling was divorced, broke, depressed and on welfare. The list goes on and on. (You can read about more of these “failures” here.)

While I am certainly not trying to compare myself to these great men and women, the point is valid – no matter how successful one is perceived to be, the road taken to get there is often a bit bumpy. However, these bumps are often what jolt us forward and propel us to new discoveries.

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Sustaining Your GRC Program, After the Fireworks are Over

GRC-Fireworks

Have a plan for sustaining the excitement of your GRC deployment.

Firework shows are the ultimate front-loaded project; the type where it’s easy to lose sight of the long-term relationship. For two summers in my early twenties, I was a “Licensed Pyrotechnic Operator” by the Missouri Division of Fire Safety (which, if you know me, is like asking your cat to clean the swimming pool). My job description involved trekking to a variety of rural, hole-in-the-wall communities and assisting a team with blowing up a pre-determined number of explosives, without losing any appendages.

After 12 hours of work in the hot sun, the day would end with a brilliant display of color and spectacle. For many teams, the end of the show was their cue to haphazardly tear down the tubes (the launching mechanisms for the fireworks) and get the heck out of Dodge (or Thayer, West Plains, Monett, etc.), all the while high-fiving each other and talking about the great event they just created. I was lucky enough to be assigned to a team that knew better, though. To be a successful fireworks operator, it’s not just about the show.

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4 Tactics for Ensuring Enterprise Data Security

GRC-Security

Businesses of all sizes benefit from a sound information security program.

“Privacy” is the current buzzword sweeping the nation, and no matter who you ask, everyone seems to have different opinions on the subject.  With the latest revelation of government and business surveillance, both domestic and international, many people are asking themselves, “Is my private data actually private?”  The ongoing struggle between security and privacy is nothing new (and it will continue for years to come), but if there is anyone who needs to be more worried than most, it would be the businesses who handle sensitive, business-critical information on a daily basis.

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