Change management and embedding ethics

Elissa Farrow
August 25, 2015

In my last blog post I talked about some of the impacts of having a lack of ethics in an organisation. Like any culture change process we need to understand roles and responsibilities. In particular, you need to understand who should ‘own’ the business ethics process and who should communicate the agreed processes to management and team members.

The typical roles usually match how we will implement a project or new capability into the organisation. First of all we need to work out who will develop, implement and monitor business ethics behaviours.

Let’s start with the develop phase. When we are designing anything new in an organisation we ideally would like to have the team involved in the design also part of the implementation. To implement an ethics framework into an organisation, the design team need to have the following expertise:

  • Ethical understanding
  • Knowledge of the organisational culture
  • Knowledge of any impacting legal, policy or procedural requirements
  • Ability to write well and translate complex data into understandable information
  • Human Resource design models and functions to support such systems
  • Able to embed the framework into the ‘way we do business’

It is also a good part of design to set up the governance process around who approves the framework and monitors the implementation of this culture change program. Ideally this is the most senior leadership team in the business and may be a governance board.

Once we have created the framework we need to implement it using solid change tactics. The key roles used in implementing could include:

  • Leadership
  • A project team
  • A change manager
  • An identified business ethics owner area that came through the design process (often located in legal services, human resources or a separate ethics unit)
  • Business ethics subject matter experts
  • Identified representatives/champions across the business

The implementation team needs as a starter to understand your own blind spots, which may permit, or even encourage, the unethical behaviour you are trying to extinguish. So it is a good idea to have an independent party review the business ethics framework prior to implementation so we are not overlooking any areas due to our own unconscious bias.

Typically, ethics frameworks are reinforced and monitored through the following change strategies:

  • Lead from the top
  • Visible and open use of ethics on language
  • Are part of the organisational values and behaviours
  • Reinforced in individual performance plans
  • Supported by training (as part of deployment, as part of induction)
  • Supported by a solid internal marketing campaign (over a reasonable period of time)

Have a think about how your organisation promotes ethical practice. It is often not discussed in great detail and assumed that people follow the rules. But to build a culture of ethics we need to change the culture.

Elissa Farrow
Elissa Farrow is the founder of About Your Transition, a business specialising in strategy development and implementation, the Director of Ethics of the International Institute of Project Coaching and the Global Secretary for the Change Management Institute. With extensive experience in strategic organisational change, portfolio, program and project management in the public, commercial and not-for-profit sectors, she has assisted organisations in increasing their delivery maturity by implementing enterprise-wide methodology and building the capability of the people who use them.
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