By William Singleton


Recently, I’ve had a recurring thought. It doesn’t exactly keep me up at night, but it does pop into my mind periodically, forcing me to stop and give it my full attention. The thought? Well, it’s really more of a question: What if compliance isn’t enough? 

It may surprise you to know that the origin of this thought didn’t come from a heavy debate in an IACUC meeting discussing the continued failure of an institution to meet regulatory requirements. Ironically, it was born out of a discussion with a group of friends hashing out the importance of…wait for it…The 10 Commandments

As I recall, I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, but I did find myself in agreement with the view that obeying all ten commandments is a “good thing.” But then it hit me -- some of the most unloving people I know pride themselves on being bible-toting ‘commandment keepers.’ The effort is there, but something is definitely missing. Maybe compliance alone isn’t enough, after all! 

I began to consider some of the organizations I partner with. What if we’ve been so focused on compliance, that we are missing the bigger picture? What if compliance is just the minimum standard and we should be targeting something a bit loftier?

  • Is it possible to have a USDA site visit with no findings (which, for the record is a great thing) but still have issues with animal care and welfare? 
  • What if full accreditation from AAALAC is just the beginning for your organization, rather than the ultimate goal?

What I discovered in the conversation with my friends is probably true in any situation. When you discuss compliance, you delve into the nuances of the law, often focusing on the trees and not seeing the forest. It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in the formalities of rules and regulations, but how do we move beyond compliance to those places that really matter most?

I don’t think the answer is simple, but I do think it’s something we can work toward. What is most important? Being thoughtful about what is important to us personally, as a team, and as an organization will inform how we manage and influence culture in our work space and how we train others to work in these spaces. What are we really trying to accomplish – compliance or changing the world?

Compliance isn’t the end game, it’s a step along the way toward continuous improvement: getting a little bit better every day.



AuthorWilliam Singleton