tangled-up-in-blueToday, I conclude my tribute to Bob Dylan-Nobel Laureate, by discussing my personal favorite Bob Dylan song, Tangled up in Blue. The time shifts and jumps in the song have always resonated with me. Indeed, it is one of the most beautiful and truly haunting songs I have ever heard.

Neil McCormack, writing in The Telegraph described the song as “The most dazzling lyric ever written, an abstract narrative of relationships told in an amorphous blend of first and third person, rolling past, present and future together, spilling out in tripping cadences and audacious internal rhymes, ripe with sharply turned images and observations and filled with a painfully desperate longing.” He added that the song was “A truly extraordinary epic of the personal, an unreliable narrative carved out of shifting memories like a five-and-a-half-minute musical Proust.” 

Wikipedia said of the song, it is one of the clearest examples of Dylan’s attempts to write “multi-dimensional” songs which defied a fixed notion of time and space. Dylan was influenced by his recent study of painting and the Cubist school of artists, who sought to incorporate multiple perspectives within a single plane of view. Dylan himself said of this style of songwriting, “What’s different about it is that there’s a code in the lyrics, and there’s also no sense of time. There’s no respect for it. You’ve got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room, and there’s very little you can’t imagine not happening.”

The song introduces today’s post which comes from an article in the MIT Sloan Management review by Lynda Gratton, entitled “Rethinking the Manager’s Role”, where she speculated on the role of technology in business and whether such technology will render managers obsolete. Her conclusion was not that technology would make managers obsolete but that they would need to be more skilled than before, going forward. She posits four potential changes for management which all apply to the compliance professional.

First, Gratton believes that “the manager’s role as a coordinator of work would come under increasing pressure. Constant improvements in robotics and machine learning, in conjunction with the automation of routine tasks, make management a more unclear practice. What is a manager, and what is it that managers do? Are we witnessing the end of management?”

Second, there will be a shift at the paternalistic view of what Gratton calls the “parent-to-child way of looking at the relationship between the manager and his or her team.” She goes on to state, “ultimately superseded by an adult-to-adult form. The nexus of this more adult relationship concerns how commitments are made and how information is shared. When technology enables many people to have more information about themselves and others, it’s easier to take a clear and more mature view of the workplace. Self-assessment tools, particularly those that enable people to diagnose what they do and how they do it, can help employees pinpoint their own productivity issues. They have less need for the watchful eyes of a manager.”

Third, Gratton foresees a structural change away from the vertical to the horizontal. Gratton begins by asking the question, “Why learn from a manager when peer-to-peer feedback and learning can create stronger lateral forms of coaching?” She then goes on to state that “technology-enabled social networking is capable of creating robust and realistic maps of influence and power — so no more hiding behind fancy job titles.” Finally, Gratton notes that the rise of platform based businesses such as Uber may well have very large implications for business management going forward, noting, people are “excited about platforms and how they can create a fertile arena for new businesses to be built while also acting as a conduit for flexible ways of working.”

So what does all of this mean for the business manager and even more explicitly the compliance professional? First and foremost, it clearly portends the end of the former model of compliance, which centered the function in the General Counsel’s (GC’s) office. That model has since been discredited as not structured for compliance to succeed. However, I think we are also past these structural changes which developed into Compliance 2.0 and we are now into qualitative changes which portend Compliance 3.0 and beyond. Compliance practitioners will need to be able to read a spreadsheet as compliance goes into the fabric of their organization. Failure to have this basic business skill will render the lawyer-cum compliance practitioner as a professional luddite going forward. Put another way, it is not simply understanding the law but applying it into an ongoing business organization that will separate those who succeed in compliance from those who are stuck in the past.

Gratton sees the skills managers will need in a similar vein. As companies truly become more worldwide in scope the US centric nature will give way to a more horizontal approach. When you add in the incoming millennial workforce you add a generational component as well. The skills called upon will be to manage across time and space all the while supporting “rapid knowledge flows across business units.”

Gratton ended her piece with “this is a very complex form of management — managing virtually rather than face to face; managing when the group is diverse rather than homogenous; and managing when the crucial knowledge flows are across groups rather than within. These are highly skilled roles in terms of both managerial capabilities (for example, how to build rapid trust, coach, empathize, and inspire) and management practices (for example, team formation, objective setting, and conflict resolution).”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has consistently said that compliance programs must evolve to keep pace with not only changes in business and markets, but changes in technology which increase the manner in which companies actually do compliance. In the FCPA Pilot Program, the DOJ (and most probably its Compliance Counsel Hui Shin), in its section on remediation noted that the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) would need to evolve far past a lawyer simply writing policies and procedures; to having a CCO and compliance function fully integrated into the business and managing compliance throughout the organization, even if the business units were taking the lead in doing compliance.

As the manager’s role changes in the corporate world, the role of the compliance professional will change as well. Or Bob Dylan said about Tangled up in Blue, “You’ve got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room, and there’s very little you can’ t imagine not happening.”


This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2016