What Marie Kondo can teach us about Compliance Management

Marie Kondo is a diminutive Japanese woman in her mid-30’s who has taken over the world with her spiritual and thoughtful method of tying one’s home and soul. Her book’s English title is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. She has been featured on New York Times, The New Yorker, various television shows and publications. She is one of Time‘s 100 most influential people, just above John Oliver and just below Christopher Nolan. So much of a fan, Jamie Lee Curtis was asked to interview Kondo. (I’m not sure how valuable Curtis really is as a journalist since she doesn’t speak Japanese, Kondo does not speak English, and has no knowledge of Japanese culture beyond any other Hollywood personality, but I suppose, Time just thought having her involved could help sell copy.)

Compliance, if you’ve been following the news at all for the past seven years, requires some tidying up of home and soul. In this entry, I am going to take a three of Kondo’s biggest ideas and applying to Compliance Management.

  1. Take an inventory of Compliance problems that needs to be solved. Each problem should be thought through carefully but quickly for what the source of the problem is, why it continues to be a problem, and that’s it for the first step. The main point is to get your arms around the issues. Things change all the time, but if you can get your arms around the issues at a single point, then new ones are incremental additions.
  2. Then ask yourself, “Does solving this problem provide value to customers in some fashion?” Rather than prioritizing them onto a list, this simple segregation of issues filters out the ones were identified as problems to be solved, but maybe they are actually problems to be gotten rid of. This exercise might actually be made easier if you start with smaller, obviously less important problems. The idea that once you’ve gotten used to applying this filtering method, the bigger decisions won’t seem so hard.
  3. And then prioritize the remaining issues that add value to customers and work on them all in priority order. Don’t do it piecemeal. That is a trap to not getting around to it. This might mean a massive buildup of your department for several months or a year, but you will have a transformed organization because you’ve tackled compliance problems that are worth tackling.

Two things to add:

  1. You will need to take the remaining problems to tackle and estimate their cost. Do a simple cost analysis to figure out if it is worth tackling them. Even if it is important to tackle them, if your institution or department is jeopardized by tackling it, ultimately it does not serve the customer. So, the isolated issue will have to also tackle in relation to other issues.
  2. You can apply this to your own department or just to yourself. The main problem you might face is the lack of resources. Hopefully you will find that many things are not worth tackling and you will free up your time and resources to spend on the important things, but if too many things are important, rather than tackling them one by one, you should figure out a way to tackle them all within a certain amount of time. Tackling them piecemeal is the slippery slide to a time-suck.


How do you like applying popular culture with Compliance? 

Marcus Maltempo is a compliance professional with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses. He is a member of ACAMS and ACFE. 

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