Addressing ethics in any workplace requires a working definition that has credibility, clarity and certainty.
The Making Ethics Work Checklist provides a starting point for entrepreneurial Managers and Leaders to explore ethics in the reality of their own work environment – and is now available.
If you would like to discuss a free trial, email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the mid-1990s, I collaborated with Gerald Murine of METRIQS International of California for a period of four years in developing a methodology for including human factor quality traits as part of a measurable quality assessment. This work introduced me to the Software Engineering Institute’s work on Quality Characteristics.
We subsequently co-wrote a paper, Integrating Quality Metrics and Relationships Grids, for the 53rd American Quality Congress, “Surfin’ into the Next Millenium” at Annaheim in May of 1999,
The tool I found during this work is the 3-level hierarchy that enables individual quality characteristics to be defined at three levels – and which I’ve adapted and applied in numerous ways through the past 15 years:
- Level 1 – a quality characteristic is defined
- Level 2 – a set of components is identified that together comprise the quality characteristic: these could be likened to performance indicators
- Level 3 – a set of elements is identified that together comprise each component: these could be likened to performance measures.
This tool is one of the more popular items visited by visitors to this website through the past year.
My premise is that an SME or Nonprofit is able to make ethics work – similar to quality.
Let’s look at quality, and then compare the use and application of the 3-level hierarchy to ethics
The first requirement in quality assurance and improvement is the presence of a quality system. With a quality system in place, quality assurance is possible: and the outcome of quality assurance is continuous quality improvement. Without a quality system, quality assurance is at best a guess, with no basis for continuous quality improvement.
Quality is the degree or standard of excellence, especially a high standard: the totality of the attributes of a service or product that meets the requirements of the user of the service or owner of the product.
A Quality system is a series of actions designed to ensure consistency in approach, process and output.
The basic quality system recommended is Total Quality Management (TQM), defined as the extent to which your organisation meets, or exceeds, stakeholder expectations and requirements.
TQM is defined as:
- the extent to which your organisation is able to identify stakeholder needs and expectations – quality of research
- the extent to which the total unit design of your organisation’s programs and services meets or exceeds stakeholder expectations – quality of design
- the extent to which your organisation is able to provide and continue to perform, function and operate as intended – quality of conformance
Quality control is the internal method of avoiding a deviation from the desired or required situation, or the method of altering or changing the situation to achieve the desired or required situation. A key factor in any system is ‘control’, and there are two sorts of control:
- the maintenance of an existing situation, bringing it back to normal when it deviates, and
- the introduction of change into a situation, whether by making alterations to the existing situation or by creating a new situation.
Quality assurance is the result of quality control, in that there is certainty as to consistency in approach, process and output through the quality system. This includes ensuring that all repetitive functions or activities are consistently performed or carried out to the same desired or required standard. An audit or assessment process is the usual means of checking quality assurance.
Continuous quality improvement indicates an active commitment throughout the organisation to improving – rather than simply maintaining – the desired or required degree or standard of excellence. The 3 basic stages are:
- increasing your organisation’s knowledge and understanding of stakeholder expectations and requirements,
- improving the design, so that the mix of features afforded by your organisation’s programs and services more closely match stakeholder expectations and requirements, and
- improving your organisation’s ability to consistently perform, function and operate more closely to the design.
Each person working within an organisation is responsible for the quality of their own work – and for continual improvement in the quality of their work. If everyone is to be responsible for the quality of their own work, each person needs to know:
- the needs, aspirations and interests of their consumers and the needs of the people they work most closely with, ie internal or external ‘customers’,
- the quality of service planning and delivery that consumers require in order to achieve agreed and measurable consumer outcomes and the quality of interaction with the people they work most closely with,
- how to consistently plan and deliver services to the desired level of quality, and the quality of their interaction with others,
- how to measure the quality of their own performance, and
- how to make improvements in both the quality of their performance and the quality of service planning and delivery and the quality of their interaction with others.
How could the 3-level hierarchy make ethics work – in practical terms?
- Level 1 – ‘Ethics’ is defined to demonstrate its contribution to credibility, clarity and certainty in a specific SME or Nonprofit workplace – through a collaborative process in which a specific workplace agrees on their own definition. Tool No. 1 in the Toolkit guides this process.
- Level 2 – a set of components is identified that together comprise the agreed definition of ‘Ethics’: these can be likened to performance indicators, and
- Level 3 – a set of elements is identified that together comprise each component, which are individually able to be measured: these can be likened to performance measures.
Each component (with its own set of elements) is an identity in its own right which will be affected by, and can itself affect, adherence to Ethics through the workplace.
The 3-level hierarchy can be adapted as an Ethics Assessment, Improvement and Management Tool.
Making Ethics Work Toolkit offers 14 Tools, based on aspects of Making Ethics Work that were considered in my weekly website articles during October and November 2010:
- Does this challenge begin and end with Management and Leadership?
- Parameters and Focus for the Checklist
- Management and Leadership Styles
- The Human Side of Leadership
- The nature and impact of change
- Leaders and Managers must manage relationships within their workplace
- The 3-level Hierarchy Ethics assessment, improvement and management tool
To re-cap - The Making Ethics Work Toolkit to improve workplace behaviours, job satisfaction and performance within the SME and Nonprofit Sectors is now available. In my usual style of writing and working, the focus of this Toolkit is on practical tools and strategies – within a clear theoretical framework.
Your comments, questions or observations will be very welcome.