“If cynicism is a go-to emotion right now, then we suggest coming back to this book when you’re in a better place. … If your instinct is to burn it all down because you see no reason to hope, then we might suggest other titles.”

Such a role reversal for a book to turn down a consumer is rare. A bookseller might call it unadvisable. But if the intrepid consumer reads on, the disclaimer becomes emblematic of the book’s thesis, not to mention its authorial charm.

Move Fast and Fix Things

This is a playbook about moving fast. Thoughtfully and intentionally but fast. The disclaimer cuts to the chase, engaging the right reader and liberating the wrong one (or wrong-for-now one). Its candor demonstrates authenticity, logic, even empathy—the trifecta of dimensions that build organizational trust, according to the authors.

Leadership experts Anne Morriss and Frances Frei assert the preeminence of speed and trust as drivers of effective leadership. They analogize the point well: “Think about whatever you’re building as a plane taking off for a new destination: No one’s getting on board without confidence in the aircraft, and without enough speed, you’re not even getting airborne.”

How to proceed with speed is laid out in clear, sequential steps. Building trust on a tripod of authenticity, logic, and empathy is a more abstract ambition. Yet, Morriss and Frei succeed in unriddling it. They offer actionable advice, which they enrich with stories of companies that excelled or wobbled on these dimensions: Airbnb, United Airlines, and Patagonia, to name a few.

In the spirit of no-time-like-the-presentness, the authors prescribe an order of operations as metaphorical “days of the week.” Monday gets a chapter, Tuesday gets a chapter, and so forth. The reading experience is a little like listening to The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love.” The effect is each “day” builds momentum and excitement for what’s coming tomorrow. The metaphor is fundamentally optimistic, as the writers surely intended. Every reader knows the “weekend”—i.e., the sweet reward for fixing a hairy problem—is imminent.

According to Morriss and Frei, the “weekly calendar” breaks down like so:

  • Monday: Identify a problem holding the company back.
  • Tuesday: Build trust at scale.
  • Wednesday: Create a diverse and inclusive culture.
  • Thursday: Communicate your change story.
  • Friday: Execute your change plan with urgency.

Compliance Week spoke with Morriss about where compliance—not the function but the humans behind it—fits into the order of operations. Though the answer might be any day, the conversation revolved around Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Dial down the judgment. The word “judgment” gets a bad rap, but a predisposition for judgment breeds sound decision-making skills founded in values, ethics, and logic. No wonder so many compliance officers are “judgers”: It is an auspicious asset for the function.

However, Monday’s mission—to solve a problem—requires curiosity, and according to research cited in the book, curiosity and judgment cannot coexist.

“This is the ‘no ideas are bad ideas’ stage of the process, and the compliance function is typically in the business of identifying bad ideas,” Morriss said. If compliance practitioners aspire to be Monday’s problem-hunters, they must turn judgment off and curiosity on, she said.

“The people in the function with the task of risk management are often brought in last instead of first on our metaphorical Monday, and I think that comes at a cost to everyone. And so, I love the ambition of changing that organizational behavior,” Morriss said. However, “I think to make that pivot, you have to make it very clear as a gatekeeper that it’s not all about you and your own interests, particularly at this phase, which is about expanding possibility, not reducing it.”

Embrace ‘narration leadership.’ Tuesday is about building organizational trust. Yet, compliance often runs the risk of entrapment in an authenticity wobble.

Example: If wrongdoing is reported on a compliance and ethics hotline, but compliance lacks true authority to generate results, complaints can be mismanaged, retaliation can occur, and employee trust can be further eroded. Thus, what can compliance professionals do to help solve, not exacerbate, a trust problem?

“Authenticity is different from logic and empathy in that it’s coproduced; it really is a relational goal,” Morriss prefaced. “So, any organization has to make it very clear that it is, at minimum, safe to speak up and that something like retaliation for that is an impossibility.”

“What the research shows is that you want to avoid the cost of not having the (uncomfortable) conversation. That’s the big cost. It’s not having the conversation in an unskilled way—that’s a much smaller cost. The lesson is to just get in there and make these things discussable.”

Anne Morriss, co-author of “Move Fast and Fix Things”

As for compliance’s role in the middle, “I think what’s really critical, in the kinds of moments you describe, is for the lines of communication to be very open,” she said, offering the following response template:

Thank you. I have heard what you’re saying. I understand your concern. Let me make sure I totally understand it. And now I am going to walk into this other meeting, and I’m going to share this information. This other group’s going to decide; they’re going to tell me what they decided. I’m going to come back to you.

“I call it ‘narration leadership’—really describing everything that’s going to happen,” Morris went on, “because all ambiguous information is going to be interpreted negatively. You want to replace that ambiguity with deep clarity—not around the outcome, if you can’t control it, but what you can offer is as much information as you have about the process.”

Have uncomfortable conversations. Wednesday’s mission is to build a culture where all employees feel safe and empowered to bring their whole selves to work. If compliance professionals want to foster inclusion, they must be willing to sit in their discomfort. This ask might sound fraught with danger, but Morriss said people overestimate the amount of skill required to engage in uncomfortable conversations.

“What really matters is not that people are doing it in a particularly skilled way, but that they are willing to have a conversation that makes them personally uncomfortable. It can be as simple as, ‘Hey, the dynamics of this meeting didn’t feel right. Hey, I’m noticing that people are leaving this team at a faster rate. This feels like it’s something that we should be thinking about as a company.’

“What the research shows is that you want to avoid the cost of not having the conversation. That’s the big cost. It’s not having the conversation in an unskilled way—that’s a much smaller cost. The lesson is to just get in there and make these things discussable.”