Tick-box culture is described as bureaucratic and external impositions on professional working conditions, which can be found in many organizations around the world. In social work, tick-box culture means there is too much emphasis on following rules instead of actually helping children. Tick-box culture is also studied as a contributing factor in a number of fields, such as education, criminal justice and medicine. Other synonymous terms include culture of performativity.
In the US criminal justice system, some performance measures appear to have more influence on outcomes than others, and police targets have led to the criminalization of greater numbers of children, while goals for reduction youth in detention remain unmet. In England, probation officers reportedly spend 75% of their time on red tape, and the tick-box culture was blamed for the growth in bureaucracy. In Europe, crime prevention is thought to have shifted away from reducing opportunities for money laundering towards an emphasis on the demonstration of compliance with systems and procedures (tick-box culture) with the expectation that they will prevent money laundering from occurring.
In England, in an effort to reduce tick box inspections, school inspections were greatly reduced and greater emphasis placed on professional judgement. In 2015, Theresa May stated that she wanted to stop the "tick box culture" of policing in England.
Tick-box culture in medicine is seen as a system increasingly engineered to medical technicians rather than to professionals. In Scotland, a study found that clinical audit are perceived by practitioners as time-consuming and a managerially driven exercise with no associated professional rewards. For example, a hospital in England was investigated over the death of young woman who was being monitored by hospital staff, the tick-box culture was blamed in part for the woman's death.
English commentators blamed tick-box culture for the outcome of several incidents in England.