This week I return to one my favorite themes for every Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), compliance professional and compliance program: Sherlock Holmes. Over this new podcast series, I will be considering themes from the short stories to illustrate broader application to components of a best practices compliance program. In this Episode I, I consider the theme of communication in the context of the Adventure of the Red Circle.

Shmoop found that in addition to the overall storytelling of Dr. Watson, “nearly every character in the Sherlock Holmes stories is a storyteller.” Storytelling is a crucial part of the entire detective fiction genre, and the Sherlock Holmes stories really explore this aspect. Each tale begins with a new case, which is always narrated by a participant, and ends with some sort of confession/explanation scene. While we are on this journey with Holmes and Watson, both they and we “encounter tons of different people and listen to their stories. In a way, the cases that Holmes and Watson solve are like giant umbrella stories composed of a dozens of smaller stories being told by a revolving door of characters.”

In the story The Adventure of the Red Circle, Holmes solves the immediate mystery in front of him, as told by the landlady of a boarding house. The first mystery is that a lodger has not been seen for over 10 days, always staying in his room and only communicating with oblique messages such as SOAP, MATCH, DAILY GAZZETTE printed on a torn piece of paper. But Holmes divines a greater mystery as it turns out the lodger is not a man but a woman whose life is under threat and her male traveling companion can only communicate with her through references to newspaper columns. Holmes stated to Watson, “Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last. This is an instructive case. There is neither money nor credit in it, and yet one would wish to tidy it up. When dusk comes we should find ourselves one stage advanced in our investigation.”

This story illustrates a couple of key points for every CCO and compliance practitioner. The first is listening. This second compliance pointer The Red Circle Illustrates is communication, for just as education never ends for Holmes, it should never end for a compliance practitioner, your communications on compliance should never end either. Third, the audience. To communicate effectively you need to understand your audience. In any corporation, there are multiple audiences who are the key stakeholders in the 360-degree process.

Finally, you need to evaluate what you have done. You can monitor your communication activities by tracking attendance at events, website statistics, open rate of emails, downloads of materials, video hits; in other words, the same techniques that your marketing folks would use to determine their messaging’s effectiveness. The objective is to build trust for the 360-degree process by determining if the goal is achieved. You can utilize surveys or focus groups to assess the impact on your target audience. By focusing on your customer customers of compliance, i.e., your employees, it allows you to identify gaps and improve the communication process for your compliance program.

I have used three primary resources in putting together this series: Maria Konnikova’s Mastermind(Konnikova); the online site shmoop.comand its blog post, The Return of Sherlock Holmes(shmoop); and finally the most seminal print work on the entire Holmes canon, the three-volume The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes(Klinger) edited with notes by Leslie S. Klinger.

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