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Communicating ethical practice

Elissa Farrow
September 8, 2015

In my last blog I talked about the key roles and responsibilities for the development, implementation and monitoring of a business ethics approach in an organisation. With any organisational change we need to ensure that we communicate the right message appropriately to our team members. In this post I will continue on with our business ethics focus and consider the change component.

Once you have a business ethics approach in place, you need to ensure that people use it. It is important to remind managers and team members regarding the agreed business ethics guidelines and expectations. One way to do this is to have a formalised change and communication plan. Like all new implementations, this should be handled as a project as we are either introducing something new or changing something that exists.

A change and communication plan would focus on areas such as:

  • Change objectives
  • Delivery channels
  • Timing of change and communication activities
  • Key messages
  • Key messengers and change agents
  • How we will measure change effectiveness

Creating an ethical business requires an implementation approach similar to other cultural change processes. In my experience, changing our thoughts and behaviours takes time and reinforcement. A lot of cultural change takes about 18 months to two years to effectively implement. But we will need some quick wins.

Quick wins can come in a number of formats, what I have seen in practice are:

  • Awareness and information sessions
  • Training for key team members and monitoring representatives
  • Posters of key ethical messages
  • Good ethical examples like a ‘safety share’ at the beginning of meetings
  • Brochures and easy-to-understand information
  • An award at the company recognition process
  • A measure in personal performance plan

If we are personally assessed against ethical conduct and it is linked to our reward system, overall organisational change will be faster. Those responsible for communicating to team members are usually leaders, therefore we need to ensure that leaders have the right tools and key messages to pass down to their teams. Best practice change management indicates that the most effective person to message team members is the leader that those team members report to.

I find that in this fast-paced organisational context there are no easy answers all of the time. In the area of knowing what is ethical or not we often find that a single policy or procedure might not be able to provide the full guidance we need. So therefore we need to ensure that all leaders and team members are aware of their roles and personal accountabilities in the area of ethical practice and what the costs are to themselves, their colleagues and the business as a whole if they don’t get on board.

Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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