Posts tagged ‘compliance’

A mantra at DMA is that we design to make, not just think. There can be a tendency in design approaches to focus on discovery. To learn, to understand, to research.

But unless you MAKE something, you may have built a lot of empathy for the user, you may have created outstanding IP, but you haven’t actually helped them directly with anything.

A great example of designing to make is some work we undertook with our technology collaborator, Graham at GMWEB. The client, Audi Australia, was moving its apprentice training in-house and wanted to digitise the experience for all of the users involved.

The collaboration saw a detailed service design front-end that seamlessly transitioned into a tech build that has offered immediate and lasting results for Audi.

We’ll be talking about the project at Acquia Engage Asia Pacific (Acquia Engage APAC) conference in Melbourne next week. As a lead in to that presentation, we developed a case study on the work with the Acquia team.

Read about the project here.

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The only reason public service design takes place in the first place is because government has decided to offer a service. If there’s no government service, there’s no public sector service design. And at the heart of government services are rules and regulations. Even supportive services and information and education services have legislation or government ‘programs’ at their heart. And therefore the design is driven with wanting people to ‘comply’ with the core of the service offering.

We’ve recently completed a project with a client that had us re-engage with our regulatory compliance past. Helping the client design a multi-layered compliance strategy not only proved again to us the power of service design in normal project delivery processes, but reconnected and reminded us how critical ‘compliance’ is to the public service design work that we do.

DMA interpretation of the Triangle

For us, a critical and essential design tool has always been the compliance triangle. The triangle evolved from outstanding applied research work by Valerie and John Braithwaite at the ANU (and many others who worked on the associated projects). As part of the Centre for Tax System Integrity, their work developed what we all know today as the Compliance Triangle.

The triangle is a strikingly simple concept, underpinned by deep, complex bio-psycho-social theories. It was key to thinking about the range of options open to a regulator to support, direct and enforce compliance – with voluntary compliance as a key element of that support.

Any designer could read the theory of the triangle and understand immediately that it can be applied to any government created system. The more we think about, and reapply it, we think it may, inadvertently, be one of the great public sector design models.

If you think about this (almost) twenty year old model, you realise that service design projects aren’t only about doing research about the question at hand and then developing innovative solutions for the now. They are also about building in the knowledge of the past, understanding the key drivers and motivations that are inherent in the service system and the service deliverer and then researching the current and future states.

And so to the recent project.

Working with a federal agency that is implementing a new compliance approach to a critical environment means that the work results in real action and is managing real risk. This work isn’t a hypothesis, it requires definitive compliance approaches in order to minimise the ‘consequences’ of non-compliance (an understated description in this case).

The compliance work itself is asking the Agency to commit to a new model. One that broadens compliance from a narrow view of rule management to one where voluntary compliance, use of interventions across international borders and trade channels in different and new areas and collaboration within the Department are key.

The work requires us to co-design with our project team, not just a compliance approach, but a compliance posture for the Agency and the actual ability for the Agency to deliver on this posture (build the right capabilities, have the right people processes and systems).

In working with the team, we’ve brought out the triangle again. Luckily, in this case, the Department uses a version of the triangle itself, so in this case we are working with it to draw out what needs to be done. The triangle isn’t a ‘strategy’, it’s a thinking tool that allows the team to design what needs to be done to take the triangle from theory and model to practice in their very specific service system.

In working with the team, and bringing the triangle back out, we’ve been reminded of some key practices ourselves:

  • Mature compliance isn’t about rules (black and white), it’s about behaviour (decisions made in the grey).
  • In order to implement a modern compliance regime you must have knowledge:
    • Of the risk you are managing, of the service system in action (now and in the future).
    • Of the current and historical behaviour of all players within the service system. This takes data and intelligence.
  • Due to the structure of modern public sector organisations, data and intelligence is not the preserve of one team. Invariably it isn’t even managed by the team delivering the compliance strategy. So, implementing a compliance regime requires collaboration and integration of effort across the organisation, and increasingly connected agencies.
  • Integration, as a principle of compliance strategies, must be stratified across three levels or it undermines the outcomes immediately: strategic integration means the team’s strategy and approach must be in line with government and Departmental goals. Operational Integration means that the strategy must support and deliver on the departmental compliance posture and approaches. Delivery integration means that the strategy must acknowledge and design for the fact that a range of existing and new capabilities and processes will drive the strategy

These layers of integration (common to most new design efforts, not just compliance) show us how the triangle is still at the heart of the design work of the public sector. Without strategic, operational and delivery integration the department would be setting the public – the service receiver – for failure, for non-compliance.

Think of the triangle, think of the outcome of the interaction of the service receiver with the service, and invariably the triangle will inform how you design and support the right kind of service system.

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The furore created by the release this week of the joint report by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) and Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) into corruption and potential corruption in sport has been fascinating from the perspective of being both sports fans, and practitioners who work in the design of regulatory and compliance systems.


We say the furore has been fascinating because in the days following the release of information about Essendon Football Club and then the ACC report, it strikes us that commentators in mainstream media, social media and everyday conversation are at risk of retreating to entrenched code-defensive views.

There have been two sorts of cheating identified this week – the administering, or consumption, of performance enhancing drugs (PEDS) either at an individual or systemic level; and the corruption of a sport through match fixing.

In both cases, drivers such as gambling, organised crime, government funding and pure desire to win have been mixed together and discussed interchangeably – for us they are distinct though related elements of a complex problem.

The question of match fixing and formal corruption of a sport is in some ways easier to tackle because of the clear criminal nature and the entrance of gambling and organised crime, the more complex issue for sports is the use of PEDs and as-yet-unrecognised substances and approaches.

The much-promoted concept that athletes are somehow heroes or inherently models of morality as well as physical role models conveniently overlooks that these people are, well, people.

From our work across a range of compliance regimes we know that demographics, gender and occupation – though important factors – are not determinants alone of who will consider or may actually behave dishonestly in order to gain an advantage. What is more important is the psycho-social position of the individual and what we call ‘typologies’ that people can be categorised into based on understanding their experience (i.e. what they think, do and use).

In reality there are a number of stages a person may move through, such as:

  • Fully compliant and willing
  • Fully compliant but unwilling
  • Partially compliant and game playing
  • Partially compliant and planning aggressively
  • Non-compliant and naive
  • Non-compliant and game playing
  • Non-compliant and criminal

The critical question we consider is, what are the behaviours, networks and patterns that lead people to move through these levels. For example, a strain on cashflow in a small business might see a stand-up guy start moving into non-compliant territory in order to pay the bills. Similarly, in the sports arena, the pressure on a fringe player to secure a contract, coupled with the motivation by the team structure to excel could see a young talent moving towards illegal and non-compliant behaviour.

In both cases, being educated on what is right and wrong in the regulatory system is not enough to deal with the complexity of the mental processes, belief structures, relationships and environments that people operate within.

Many regulators have worked on the premise for at least the last decade that a ‘zero tolerance’ ‘right or wrong’ approach to compliance defies the true nature of how people think and act. On the face of it, this is no different to the position of athletes. It’s exactly why the user typology and mapping work we do as designers in complex systems is complementary to and used extensively in mature compliance approaches.

This week has been a wake up call for industry sectors who fall outside of the ‘traditional’ regulatory environments. The actions and language of the ACC and ASADA have been straight out of the enforcement of compliance system textbook – find, prosecute, ban. It will be interesting to see if behind this (necessary rhetoric) there is an intelligent and thoughtful compliance strategy that actually reflects the humans in this regulatory system called sport.

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