Visiting the field

Joe Murphy

by Joe Murphy

Back in the old Bell System days (the original AT&T) the company had what was called a “field visitation” program.  New lawyers were sent out in the field to ride with an installer, spend time on position with an operator, visit a construction crew, and sit with a service rep.  We did this for 3 days, in different company work positions.  

Of the things I remember from my 20 years in-house, this especially has stayed with me.  I learned much that I would never have known just being in headquarters.  I could see that the service reps were busy every minute.  They even received test calls to measure how quickly they responded to callers.  With the installer I experienced what it was like, going into customers’ houses and apartments to run the wires necessary for phone service.  I got to listen with an operator as a caller let loose a stream of obscenities as a greeting to a friend.  

I learned what it was like to deal with customers and face a day of relentless pressure.  Yes, I was only doing each thing for a few hours, but it left an imprint on me that gave me much more insight about the business than I could ever have had otherwise.  

At a PLI program I heard Michael Koenig and Gretchen Winter speaking about compliance program structure.  Mike championed the idea of compliance people visiting the field people – those on the line every day.  He noted how doing this shows that you actually care about the people and the business.  

My own experience fully supports Mike’s recommendation.  Whatever business you are in, spend some time out on the line.  Be open about yourself and what you are doing there.  Make it clear that you are there to listen and learn.  You will thank yourself afterward for taking the time to do this.  You will definitely become a more effective compliance and ethics professional for that company. 

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