Education Putting the sizzle into compliance training AICD Review

Sunday, 01 June 2003


    While every director knows the importance of compliance issues, few look forward with excitement to three hours of poring through legislation and case law. Fortunately Greg D’Arville gives CDC participants something completely different, and significantly more effective: activity, anecdotes and authority.


    Putting the sizzle into compliance training

    While every director knows the importance of compliance issues, few look forward with excitement to three hours of poring through legislation and case law.

    Fortunately Greg D'Arville gives CDC participants something completely different, and significantly more effective: activity, anecdotes and authority.

    His commitment to active learning comes from 15 years of instructional design and presentation work, mostly in traditionally dry subjects such as tax and trade practices law.

    "I cannot believe the number of presentations I've heard that start with 'Now I know this is a fairly boring area but it's important that you understand'," says D'Arville. "No movie or novel would ever set itself up to fail in that way."

    But what do movies and novels have to do with learning to comply with the law? It's all about the power of narrative, something D'Arville learned during his time as a student at Nimrod drama studio. Story-telling cuts across all cultures and all stages of life. Whatever the subject matter, a well-told yarn has the power to hold attention and claim a space in the listeners' memories. It also allows listeners to select story elements that are especially relevant to them.

    The risk in this approach is that the audience will hear the sizzle but notice that there is no steak. D'Arville's seven years as director of compliance for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, followed by five years as a consultant to leading Australian companies, give him the substance that CDC audiences demand.

    So how did a drama student find his way into the world of compliance?

    "Acting wasn't the only thing I studied in my youth," he admits. "I soon discovered that I wasn't very good at it and it didn't pay very well. So I decided to spend a few months working for the public service while I figured out what my profession was."

    The few months turned into 15 years, during which D'Arville also studied law, economics and marketing. At work he was learning other things: presentation skills as the trainer of tax assessors; instructional design when he assumed national responsibility for ATO technical training; and issues management during a two-year stint in media liaison. Then he moved to the Trade Practices Commission – as it was then named – and began to understand what he had been preparing himself to do.

    Professor Allan Fels arrived at the TPC a short time before D'Arville did and the organisation had begun experimenting with a new approach to enforcement.

    "I was fortunate to be involved so closely in the formative years of the compliance discipline," says D'Arville. "The skills I gained then were directly transferable to the compliance and risk management work that I do today, plus I gained a pretty intimate knowledge of the major enforcement matters of the decade. I've stayed close to them ever since but from the other side of the fence, and that gives you a lot of material to work with when talking to company directors with diverse issues and experiences."

    A successful compliance program is a combination of elements designed with two overarching goals: supporting successful corporate governance and developing a culture of compliance. The term "culture of compliance" now has statutory significance following its inclusion in the Commonwealth Criminal Code. The tools used to achieve it include risk management, quality assurance systems, auditing, training interventions and reporting mechanisms; but the common component in all these measures is effective communication.

    Working with a "lean and mean" regulator such as the ACCC gave D'Arville other priceless experiences. In 1994 he acted as Australia's delegate to the OECD Consumer Affairs Committee in Paris, and worked with consumer organisations in Montpellier, London and Harare.

    Another highlight was the hypothetical he conducted for the Law Council, which involved some high-profile players including Fels and was designed to educate people about the new Access Provisions that had just been introduced to the Trade Practices Act. The provisions were designed to give certain parties access to facilities of national significance such as the electricity grid, but D'Arville thought that sounded pretty tedious, and decided to use the Melbourne Cricket Ground as a scenario instead.

    "I cast Allan as the president of a sporting club wanting to use these provisions to force the MCG Trust to allow them use of the ground," he says. "He surprised us all in this role by mounting a land rights argument alongside the access application. I have always believed in giving trainees control of their learning as far as practically possible and seeing where it leads you. That day confirmed it for me."

    Surprises of that kind regularly occur in D'Arville's sessions at the Residential CDC, where participants join in a debate around a trade practices case taken from real life. The facts and issues are soon twisted beyond recognition by the fertile imaginations of the debaters, but despite the laughter the purpose is serious: to embed key principles in the minds of the trainees.

    The stories and the debate are important because they animate the jargon, putting a human element into the words of the Act – which you'll never do by reading it over and over again. "Participants get to create their own story," says D'Arville. "And that's the story they are likely to remember for months and years to come."

    Outside the CDC, D'Arville's working life involves a mix of auditing, compliance systems development and training activities with Neill Buck and Associates. His recreational life revolves around swift snow skiing, slow racehorses, three medium-paced children and wife Bernadette whom he met at the Tax Office.

    Advanced Program launched

    Participants of the inaugural Advanced Program at the Observatory Hotel Sydney, 30 July to 2 August are in for a busy, stimulating and exciting time.

    The program uses a workshop format with board-sized groups of 10 combining the experience of seasoned directors with the strategic input of skilled facilitators.

    "The sessions we have designed for participants will challenge their decision making and encourage debate and reflection," says Advanced Program manager Maureen Monckton.

    Picking up on oft-stated director needs, the program:

    • is designed around the needs of homogeneous groups – there are two streams in 2003

    • uses facilitated interactivity not presentation as a key methodology

    • provides opportunity to discuss issues with peers in a confidential environment

    • focuses on current challenges facing boards and directors such as risk management, finance, strategy and CEO selection and remuneration.

    Highlights include a session on current issues led by Henry Bosch and a dinner presentation by special guest David Hoare.

    While the inaugural program has been booked out for some time, registrations for the second program to be held at the Sebel Lodge Yarra Valley will shortly open for those members who satisfy the criteria.


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