George Andrie died last week. He was the starting right end on the original Dallas Cowboys Doomsday Defense. Andrie was Pro Bowler for five straight years from 1965 to 1969. He played when the Cowboys were always the bridesmaid and never the bride, losing to the Green Bay Packers in the 1966 and the 1967 Ice Bowl as well as the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V. However, the next year the Cowboys finally broke through and won the big one in Super Bowl VI, trouncing the Miami Dolphins.

Andrie was the Cowboy leader in sacks for most of the ‘60s, as well as leading the league twice. However I remember Andrie for two plays. The first was his scoop of a Bart Starr fumble and return for a touchdown in the 1967 National Football League (NFL) Championship Game, the Ice Bowl. Equally impressive was his interception of a John Brodie pass in the 1971 National Football  Conference (NFC) Championship Game and returning it to the two-yard line. The Cowboys scored on the next play, beat the 49ers and then went on to Super Bowl VI to finally shake the title of the team who couldn’t win the Big One.

One of the things I continually try to write about is that the customers of a corporate compliance function are the company’s employees. With this key insight, it becomes clearer to see that a compliance professional can drive greater, more effective and more fully operationalized compliance. I was reminded of this once again by a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review article, entitled “Customer Relationships Evolve — So Must Your CRM Strategy”, by Jonathan Z. Zhang, George F. Watson IV, and Robert W. Palmatier. In this piece the authors began with the question of whether your customer management strategy keeps pace with your customer relationships? I thought that was an excellent way to consider what you can do as a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) to make compliance part of your business processes.

The authors identified four different types of customer relationships which translate for the compliance professional. The first is transactionalwhich includes “partners exhibit low to medium levels of trust, commitment, and dependence and relatively low relational norms”. The second is transitionalwhere the “relationships exhibit higher levels of trust and commitment and greater relational norms and mutual dependence. Two characteristics define this state. First, all four relationship dimensions grow, reflecting a substantial increase in partners’ understanding of how to best communicate and cooperate; they become familiar with each other’s corporate cultures and idiosyncrasies.”

The third type of relationship is defined as communalwhich is defined as the highest and best type of a relationship. This is the type of relationship where a corporate compliance program is more fully operationalized within the functional business units. The fourth and final is simply called thedamagedrelationship. As its title implies it is “marked by low levels of trust and commitment and very low levels of relational norms.” If that is not a description where compliance is seen as Dr. No from the Land of No; I do not know what is.

Within these types of relationships, the authors identified certain dimensions: trust, commitment, dependence and norms.

Trust is defined as “confidence in a business partner’s integrity” and they go on to state, “Trust entails an evaluation of a partner’s reliability and intentions. It can prompt risky but rewarding investments out of the belief that the partner will not shirk or exploit. It facilitates sharing of information and resources.” It can be determined by asking such basic questions as “Can compliance be counted on?” and does “Compliance stand by what it says?”

Commitment is defined as “the desire to maintain a valued relationship”. The authors added it “reflects a self-focused evaluation of the intention to continue the relationship, including a company’s dedication, its identification with the partner, and its willingness to accept long-term benefits over short-term gains.” Commitment can be determined by such questions “Do we admire the companies values”.

Dependence reflects the parties reliance on each other “for benefits for which few easy alternatives exist” and it “captures evaluations of the structural constraints of a relationship; interdependence promotes collaboration, while one-sided dependence can undermine it if trust or commitment is low.” It can be determined by asking such questions as “If for some reason, our relationship with compliance ended we would lose ____?”

Norms is about setting and maintaining expectations, “as you work toward mutual and individual goals” and they “develop from repeated interactions between partners and guide their trade by reflecting concerns about each other’s prosperity, the equitable sharing of costs and benefits, and the reduction of opportunism.” It can be determined by asking “Who bears and shares the costs?”

The authors ended by noting that your relationship with your customers can evolve and mature. They said the biggest key is communication. Finding out what your customer needs and delivering it to them. This is even truer for a corporate compliance function. Communication should be ongoing, two-way and continuous. If you consider how to move customers along these states of relationships, you can see how you can evolve as a compliance professional and as a function within your organization. The authors stated, “Neglect can harm these relationships, and perceptions of unfairness or a loss of trust can be fatal. Managers should thus regularly assess negotiation procedures and contracts with these customers, with an eye to identifying and addressing potential points of conflict, and regularly review” the efficiency of business procedures. In the event of an inadvertent action which is perceived as unfair, quickly seek compromise. Failure to do so can send a communal relationship spiraling toward the damaged state.

Just as I remember George Andrie for two plays not usually associated with defensive linemen, many compliance professionals do not usually consider employees in a corporation as customers for a compliance program. However by considering some of the relationships discussed, it might give you some new avenues to explore.

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© Thomas R. Fox, 2018