When employees act unethically and/or without integrity, customers lose trust and confidence in organizational products and services.
When leaders act unethically and/or without integrity, employees lose trust and confidence in organizational processes, systems and products.
Both directly impact the bottom line and the return on investment.
What is the correlation between return on investment and unethical behavior and/or a lack of integrity?
Organizations are built on the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Working together creates results and outcomes for the whole that outweigh the results and outcomes of everyone working for themselves.
The secret to success is not the principle but the way synergy is created.
Synergy is defined as a dynamic state in which combined action is favored over the sum of individual component actions. Synergy is an emergent behavior that arises out a multitude of simple actions based in ethics and integrity.
Everyone in an organization is expected to do the right thing at the right time in order to create synergy. Doing the right thing at the right time creates positive safety, quality, productivity and cost results.
This is ethics-the determination of right and wrong in organizations. Ethics is learned through trial and error. When behaviors are wrong, they are corrected. When behaviors are right, they are reinforced.
These lessons learned and best practices are the moral code that defines the synergistic behaviors required for organizational performance.
Problems occur when individuals seek to maximize their personal ends through behaviors that violate the ethics of the organization and its moral code.
If one gets more, others get less. For example, employees who slow down during the week to ensure overtime pay reduce the return on investment for others.
To prevent violations of the moral code, leaders and managers in organizations are entrusted with a fiduciary responsibility (something that is held or founded in trust and confidence) to reinforce and enforce the requisite synergistic behaviors required for organizational sustainability.
Corruption occurs when there is an abuse of entrusted power for personal gain whether it is financial or political. Corruption sub-optimizes the performance and jeopardizes the sustainability of the whole.
Corruption often deceivingly masks itself as business reality. In order to ensure business targets are achieved and performance bonuses are distributed, an accepted practice called “do what it takes to get the job done” rears its ugly head. This may mean cutting corners, applying band-aid solutions, suppressing , ignoring or misrepresenting information in order that the problems or defects are knowingly or unknowingly passed on to another part of the process.
Since no one wants a product or service with built in defects, the second part of this practice is “don’t get caught.” This is corruption and it destroys synergy and undermines organizational principles.
Corruption spreads. Employees who do what it takes and don’t get caught are rewarded. This creates a culture of knowing where employees know that doing the wrong thing at the right time will be rewarded. In time, many embrace corruption simply because everyone is doing it.
Corruption ignores the fact that unethical actions involved in doing the wrong things create a chain of consequences that far outweighs the cost of doing the right thing. For example, organizations that ship product with quality defects to meet production targets lose in product returns and warranty repairs that reduce profitability.
It is a short term gain for a few, and a long term pain for the many.
Government, through its regulatory agencies, intervenes to control corruption in financial, safety, human rights, and environmental areas.
Unfortunately, regulators cannot legislate compliance to the law. They can only enforce consequences to violations. This is where the “don’t get caught” behavior invokes ingenuity that defies the legal system.
The principle of protecting the whole and the right way to do things then falls to the integrity of the participating individuals. The commitment to comply is an integrity based decision.
Integrity is defined as wholeness, unfolding and objectivity. If the ethical foundation and the moral code are sound, then individuals have trust and confidence in the organization.
Wholeness is completed by doing the right thing. The unfolding is defined by doing the next right things and objectivity is enhanced by doing things the right way. Performance and sustainability are the outcome of individual commitment to compliance and collective synergies arising out of an ethical moral code.
If the ethical foundation and moral code is corrupt-benefiting the few at the expense of the many, then individuals lack trust and confidence in the organization and its products.
Doing the wrong thing fragments the whole. Not doing the next right thing creates chaos and objectivity is compromised when people don’t do things correctly. Performance is at risk in the short term and long term sustainability is undermined.
Ethics and integrity are the cornerstones of performance and sustainability.
Want to learn more? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I want to speak to you about integrity and how it can help you and all of us.
Douglas Ross is an advocate for the promotion of integrity as a strategy for performance.
© 2009 All Rights Reserved, Douglas Ross, Principle Dynamics Consulting Inc.