Path of Totality – What can Compliance Professionals Learn from the Eclipse?

By Sherrie King
Compliance Auditor, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System

A colleague shared a post on today simply asking others to share where they were located along the “Path of Totality” of today’s Solar Eclipse. Some responded they were in an area where they would only experience 60% – 70% totality; others were in areas that would experience totality in the 90% – 99% range, while some were in the direct path and would experience the eclipse at “totality”. Some had even traveled to areas where it has been advertised would be the best viewing areas to experience totality. As I read the responses, the thought occurred to me “What lessons can we as Compliance Professionals learn from this natural phenomenon regarding how we see risk in our organizations?”

During today’s eclipse the moon passed between the earth and the sun and preventing full view of the sun for a brief period of time. Others within our organization may try to hide areas of risk from us just as the sun was hidden by the moon but as with today’s eclipse those risks can only be hidden for a period of time and are then revealed. As compliance professionals, it is our responsibility to see past the eclipse and expose the risks. Only after the risks have been exposed can the severity of the risk be determined.

At the height of the eclipse the moon obstructed the view of the sun, however, did not totally block out the sun. Some of the sun’s light was still seen emanating around the moon’s image even in the areas where the eclipse is considered to be “total”. Just as the sun was only partially hidden by the moon, risks can only be mitigated to a point. Although it may be possible to eliminate some risks, most of the time we, as compliance professionals, are only able to make recommendations to minimize the impact the risks may have on our organizations.

For a couple of months everyone has been warned to wear safety glasses to view the eclipse to prevent damage to their eyes. Many times in our organization’s management wears figurative safety glasses to prevent seeing the damage an area of risk may cause the organization. Compliance professionals are the ones who don’t wear the glasses and look at the risks as they are regardless of the potential damage. By taking off the safety glasses, we are many times able to decrease the damage of the risks.

Depending on where you were located in the county you may have only experienced a partial eclipse, hence the term “Path of Totality” which is the path where the total eclipse was visible. Many people traveled to an area where they would be able to better experience the eclipse, some traveling long distances, while others were content to witness the view they had where they were. Just as various parts of the country will not experience the eclipse at the same level of coverage depending on where they are on the “Path of Totality”, we as compliance professionals may not be at the same level in our assessments of risks in our organizations. Some of us are much closer to mitigating our risks than others.

Where are you on the “Path of Totality” in exposing and mitigating the risks in your organization?  Are you in the 60% – 70% range, the 90% – 99% range, or are you just getting started? Do you need to reach out to others who are closer to “totality” for help or advice?  Is someone in your organization blocking you from exposing areas of risk? Do you need to remove your safety glasses so you can better see the risks and damage they are causing your organization? Don’t be eclipsed by risks in your organization.

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  1. Sherrie,

    Thanks for posting. I like your visualization of “remove your safety glasses” as a prompt for compliance professionals to consider just how much they may be missing by not looking.

    I know one way that people can get a clearer picture of what is going on within their organization is to have effective auditing and monitoring practices in those risk areas they have identified. Often discussed…but whether it is done or not is another question.

    • Great point Frank. It’s often not what shows up in your reports, it’s what doesn’t show up in your reports. Which departments are perfect and never have a compliance issue?

  2. Sherrie,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the community. It is a good reminder to stay focused on the areas that are important and need to be addressed- even when they may be difficult to look at.

  3. Thanks for posting, Sherrie. Too often, people remain content in the “partial path” of complacency.. The end result of failure to incorporate robust monitoring and auditing into the compliance program can be just as damaging to the organization as actively covering up risk with the “safety glasses”.

  4. What a great read Sherrie. Loved the analogies! So fitting our profession and how risk is viewed.

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