When Fresenius’ Mary Shirley and her team endeavored to create a compliance department mission statement, they discovered substantial value in executing what seemed at first like a simple task.
In 2017, shortly after I joined the Fresenius Medical Care North America Compliance Department, my boss, Lisa Estrada, tasked me with running our internal marketing team (watch for the upcoming Great Women in Compliance podcast episode, “Compliance Innovations: Cross-Pollinated Project Groups,” with CCI’s Editor and Publisher, Sarah Hadden, for more information about rolling out such a team within the compliance department).
One of the first requests Lisa made of me and the team was to come up with a mission statement for our regional compliance department of around 35 staff. The mission statement would then guide our department branding moving forward as a foundational, aligned understanding of our goals.
At first, I viewed this task as something fairly simple and easy to get on with. I understood the purpose of what we were doing, but it was only as we journeyed through the iterative process of carefully crafting every sentence and mindfully selecting just the right word to convey our intentions that I began to see real value in what at first blush seemed like a basic ask.
With this article I wanted to share with other compliance officers:
- How we went about creating our mission statement
- The benefits and uses we found along the way
The marketing team of our compliance department is a subset of the wider team. Therefore, we wanted to ensure that – while there would be a focal group responsible for the execution of this deliverable – the whole department felt truly part of the process and that it holistically reflected our perspectives.
To gather input, we ran a session during one of our all-hands department meetings using a word cloud tool to ask everyone to vote on certain topics that we considered would inform the drafting process. This involved asking questions such as “what word do you want colleagues to think of when they think of the compliance team?” Our highest-voted word in response to this question was “partner.” So, we took these nuggets as valuable starting points to craft the statement, involving our colleagues across the department right from the start.
The Iterative Drafting Process
The marketing team then convened, armed with colleague input, and threw up draft sentences on the whiteboard. We read out loud, we erased, we debated meanings of words, perceptions and connotations with various interpretations. What is it that made us choose this profession? What is it that makes us get up in the morning? How do we see ourselves versus the classic reputation of a compliance department? What are we trying to achieve?
It was a hugely iterative process that required several sessions of meetings to align our thoughts and, perhaps for the first time, to share as a group what being in compliance meant to us. The passage we eventually came up with was simple and concise. It belies the heart, effort and care that the marketing team members took to get it just right.
When we were satisfied with what we came up with, we disseminated the draft to the full department, asking for feedback. One word was tweaked, and at last, we had our final product.
The Fruits of Our Labor
At this point, you’re probably wondering what this masterpiece looks like. I’m very pleased to share the final version as follows, because it’s a team effort I remain proud of:
“The Ethics and Compliance Department serves as an informed business partner, helping to guide Fresenius Medical Care North America on appropriate paths to success. We assist in identifying and measuring potential areas of risk and monitoring to support compliance. While honesty and integrity are everyone’s responsibility, we are here to help the business navigate through complexities and provide timely education, advice and solutions.”
Applying Your Mission Statement
Before even thinking about ways in which we might communicate the mission statement, I felt the process of coming up with the statement was beneficial in itself. It was a great initial team-bonding activity for the marketing team, and through it, the department achieved a common understanding as to the direction in which we were jointly heading.
We discussed adding the mission statement to the signature block of our email addresses as a way to help shape our reputation with the business, using the statement as a simple way to explain the role of the department in orientation materials for new staff, designing it and hanging in our workspaces to remind us of our greater goal and providing it to staff new to the department.
The latter I consider especially important. Obviously, it’s helpful from a practical standpoint if we’re all working toward the same objectives. However, if you review the questions in most employee engagement and satisfaction surveys, there is almost guaranteed to be a question along the lines of whether the staff member understands how their role contributes to company objectives. Having a mission statement is an easy and clear way to help foster that understanding within your compliance department of how your puzzle piece works to serve the other functions and, therefore, the company’s main goals.
Even two years later, there are still times when working on various workstreams that I think it would be appropriate to include the mission statement, and I send it around to stakeholders or insert it within the document accordingly. In that sense, it remains a versatile and ever-useful piece of text.
As an end note, I should point out that in the spirit of uniting ourselves as one company without different departments having their own branding, we no longer refer to this passage as our mission statement. The text formerly known as the mission statement continues to serve its purpose, recording our values, vision and ambitions – just without the name!