This was a well-attended conference, on ethics and compliance with about 250 delegates from around the world. Here are some personal highlights to share with you
about your Programme Evaluation—presented by Patrick Gnazzo, from
Better Business Practices
Evaluating compliance programs is something many organisations simply put off for another day. When evaluation does occur, the emphasis may be on operations—which is a European tendency, or on culture—which is a US tendency.
What matters though, is assessing the final impact of programmes–that is how do they affect actual behaviour or performance. There is plenty of effort going into design and implementation, but not so much on evaluating impact.
A strong point made by this speaker was the importance of not simply asking Internal Audit to conduct an evaluation of ethics training and then leaving them to get on with it. Instead, it’s vital to direct their efforts to where you want them to give you information.
A revealing chart also showed why companies don’t conduct these evaluations. 63% said it was because they “don’t feel like it”!
Towards Ethical Norms in International Business Transactions—presented by Simon Webley, Research Director Institute of Business Ethics
Why are there no universal norms or standards for business ethics? This strangely compelling presentation explored the arcane attempts to create generic measures that might convincingly cross cultural and international boundaries.
The one universal value that stood out was “Do Unto Others As You Would be Done by”. This version of what in effect amounts to “respect”, apparently works wherever you go, including across the major religions.
Does the Sign on a gate necessarily mean the right culture? Reflections on how organisations can put ethics into their corporate DNA—presented by Jane Mitchel and David Richardson of Serco.
Serco suffered a dreadful reputational disaster a couple of years ago and this presentation was a “warts and all” revelation about some of the things that had gone wrong.
It was clear that re-building Serco’s reputation is a marathon, not a sprint and there was a willingness to “take this head on and not push anything under the carpet.”
Another critical issue the work identified was how easy it is for something positive about the organisation to “flip” into the negative.
A classic story from the turnaround is the tale of the two carpets. One set of carpets was thicker than the other and clearly implied a different level of respect and importance to those using them–a source of division and trouble.
Role of the Data Protection Office—presented by Robert Bond, Head of International Law and CSR, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP
By the time Robert Bond had finished his presentation no one could be in any doubts about the challenges coming along from fresh legislation on Data Protection.
The effects are going to be wide-ranging and will create a huge demand for Data Protection Officers. They will be tied contractually to a company for up to four years, giving them a security of tenure so they can make Data Protection stick, even if the senior management resist.
Estimates of when the new EU legislation will hit the fan vary, but it’s likely to be around 2017/18. When it does though, a lot will change, particularly how companies track their use of private data and their need to follow through and be able to show their actions are within the law.
The Value of Values: Why We should Care About Ethics & Compliance—presented by Paul Fiorelli, Professor of Legal Studies and Co-Director for Business Ethics, Xavier University.
A masterful use of video clips carefully chosen to illustrate the message about the importance of ethics and values. The Enron story and its famous values that were on the walls but never followed came to life when hearing it from one of the survivors of the Enron story
Similarly, watching Jack Welch, past head of GE talking about values was also salutary. He considered two key dimensions for judging his managers: do they support the values and do they deliver on their numbers?
Welch’s reactions to the four possibilities were stark—fire the person who doesn’t support the values or deliver on the numbers. Give the one who supports the values but doesn’t deliver on values a chance to get it right, and promote the person who both supports the values and delivers on the numbers. As for the person who delivers on the numbers but doesn’t follow the values—ship them out quickly.
There was a lively debate about the story of a Wall Street banker on sabbatical, facing a moral dilemma. Should he persist with his once-in-a-lifetime aim of climbing a mountain, or abandon it to help save a person found half frozen on the slopes.
The banker failed the ultimate test of humanity. He lived to regret not making sure the person rescued finally got to safety which ultimately would have been more satisfying and memorable.
This otherwise well run conference was also memorable for inflicting on the delegates one of the world most boring speakers!
It was a classic case study of how to fail spectacularly as a presenter, including reading—eyes down–his entire talk for a solid hour. As he droned on, oblivious to his negative impact on the audience, people soon lost the will to live.
Laptops, smart phones, newspapers and even books came to the rescue of an audience far too polite to simply walk out.
It is always surprising how few conference organisers make sure their chosen speakers have the right skills or offer them some support to ensure they can hold their audience.
Related post see: Survey: What the C-Suite cares about right now