Today more than ever, organizations have an overwhelming requirement to be founded upon strong Values, Ethics and Principles. This becomes even more critical for publicly funded organizations.
All too often, an organization can believe that it is founded upon a set of values that is known and understood by all its employees. When one scratches the surface, it soon becomes clear, however, that much of this ethical, principled foundation is not so well understood and in fact may only exist in the minds of those within the organization.
If one is to insist upon ethical conduct within the organization, such conduct can only be described and assessed against a backdrop of organizational values.
This, then, becomes the starting point for any organization in its efforts to strive for highly principled, ethical employees.
Moving any organization along the ethical continuum involves some well defined and meaningful processes; not necessarily significant in terms of cost or time but significant in terms of consistency in outcomes, attitudes, organizational commitment and organizational learning.
As the processes evolve, there are dynamic effects on participants in that they develop a sense of ownership or buy-in, and on the organization in that it created an opportunity to test the viability of existing beliefs, as well as form the basis for new, perhaps more responsive and reflective organizational principles.
It has been determined that a very viable methodology that can be employed is that of soliciting the views and opinions of a variety of people and groups in a focus group environment. The groups ought to include members of the following groups:
* Client groups
* Community members
* Civilian oversight bodies
* Significant ethnic and/or cultural groups
* Education professionals
As previously stated, every effort toward moving an organization toward ethical excellence involves either defining, reconfirming or creating the foundation of values.
Frequently, organizations either make comment or at the very least tacitly imply that their people are their most valuable resource. This cannot be simply a catch phrase; indeed, it must be a demonstrable reality within the various levels of the organization.
If the Values of the organization are to be subscribed to by all members of the organization, there must be a process designed whereby the significant levels of the organization will have meaningful, observable input into the creation of the values.
One may be tempted to simply adopt a set of values that appears to fit. With a modest amount of research, the values of a variety of organizations can be obtained and adapted to the organization. Although this may appear to be more effective in the short term, in the longer term, this process has some inherent weakness, not the least of which is a total lack of buy-in and ownership throughout the organization.
A Typical Ethics Project - The Six-Week Plan
1. Clarification of Project Charter
2. Collection of external data
3. Focus Group Activity Design
4. Focus Group Activity Testing
5. Focus Group Participant Identification
6. Focus Group Activities (on site)
7. Collation of Focus Group Results
8. Classification of Focus Group Results
9. Draft Values Document
10. Vetting Process – Up, down, across
11. Communications Plan Draft
12. Implementation Plan Draft
13. Implementation Plan Testing
14. Communications Plan Testing
15. Training Strategies
16. Communication, Implementation, Training
Best Practices Review
This entails reviewing information collected during a private sector search of corporate Best Practices.
External Data Collection
This entails amassing information available from sources other than the research mentioned above. This includes Internet search, literature search and other research sources.
Design Focus Group Exercises
This entails the creation of exercises to be utilized during the focus group discussions. The exercises will be designed to solicit information and/or personal views from participants relative to the services being provided, the appropriateness of these services, the clients’ priorities, other points of view, etc.
The intent is to make certain that numerous and varied points of view are solicited from a variety of sources, including stakeholders, clients and partners.
Focus Group Activities
These activities will entail providing the participants with information relating to values statements and other similar documents from the private and the public sectors. They will be asked to translate these values into a form that would be useful to the client organization.
Participants from client group and other stakeholders will be asked to provide the information and points of view relative to public expectations, community priorities, etc. , that will be useful in determining the proper focus of the eventual deliverable.
The relationships that need to be analyzed include the following:
* Service-delivery personnel with the client group
* Service-delivery personnel with their supervisors
* Supervisors with Managers
* Managers with Executive
* Executive with CEO
* CEO with Board of Directors
When determining the expectations of each group, care must be taken to ensure that expectations are described in observable, measurable terms. This will eventually enable inclusion of the expectations in a performance evaluation system. Care must also be taken to robustly facilitate these group discussions to ensure that they remain factually focused, future focused and constructive. Initially, there may be some difficulties encountered regarding the airing of ‘dirty laundry’. Strong leadership and patience will be required to move through this portion of the process.
The exercises are carried out in a hierarchical fashion, i. e. , beginning at the front line and moving in an ordered fashion up through the organization to the most senior level. The initial exercises must be thoroughly analyzed before the subsequent exercises are undertaken. The results of the initial exercises form the basis for subsequent discussions as the exercises move up through the organization. At each stage of the process, by-in and/or official agreement of the subject groups must be solicited and received before moving on.
Focus Group Information Analysis
This involves the collection, collation, analysis, interpretation, and summarizing of the information collected during the Focus Group Exercises.
This document is intended to act as a formal strategy for communicating the focus of the project. It is intended to supplement or augment the implementation plans. Senior Executive will be the sponsoring entity for the final Communications Strategy.
This is intended to act as a step-by-step process for implementing the deliverables of the project. This will be tied hand in glove with the Communications Strategy. This portion of the project will lead the organization toward the Training Strategy and Evaluation Strategy.
This phase of the project involves testing the assumptions and/or analyses arrived at during the Focus Group Information Analysis phase. It will involve returning to the site of the Focus Group activities and discussing the resulting document with a portion of the original group. This phase moves the organization toward the buy-in required by all employees, clients and stakeholders.
Once the Organizational Values are defined, there must be methods devised that permit these values to be injected back into the organization and all of its employees at every opportunity. The Values must be reiterated at each and every opportunity, in various organizational documents, in recruiting and selection, training, promotion, succession planning, etc. Performance evaluation must also have values-based criteria in order to ensure that the adherence or subscription to the values is being observed, measured and valued.
This is an open-ended, conceptual document that will be intended to stimulate discussion around the issues of information transfer within the organization. A hypothetical approach will be presented to the appropriate decision-making body for discussion and potential action.
Defining Organizational Values can and does set the tone for all operational and administrative efforts. It is only through a comprehensive analysis of a host of relationships, within and involving the subject organization, that a true picture of the appropriate values comes into focus.
There is much to be gained through active participation of clients and other stakeholders in these dynamic exercises. There is a great deal to be lost, however, if the results of the focus group activities are not taken seriously or if they are minimized or altered to any appreciable degree.
The result of all of this effort will be a Values Statement that is truly reflective of the clients’ expectations of the organization. It will also reflect the organizational culture that needs to be fostered to create an entity that is credible and trustworthy.
R. J. Fitches Inc. (705) 325-6164 Toll Free: 1-888-325-6164
Bob Fitches consults with small and large corporations on a variety of issues. He has extensive experience in creating and/or recreating an organization's values from a client and employee perspective. He is a much sought-after public speaker and is also heavily involved in Personal/Life Coaching. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (705) 325-6164 or toll free at 1-888-325-6164.