EBEN or the European Business Ethics Network is the foremost business ethics organisation in Europe with local chapters in 18 countries (20 if you include all three Scandinavian countries!) and with individual members from over 40 countries:
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scandinavia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey & the United Kingdom.
EBEN Ireland’s website includes:
- An outline of business ethics thought including how it affects the DECISIONS people in business and society have to take
- Updated LINKS to 100 business ethics websites
- PRESENTATIONS on a number of integrity related crises
- CALENDAR of events open to all: Conferences and events in Ireland and overseas
- COMMENTS (below) on topics such as public sector reform, whistleblowing, changing corporate cultures and climate justice…
All comments on integrity related issues including suggestions for local events are welcome via
The next local event we are supportive of is appropriately:
BECOMING AN ETHICAL LEADER
Can an organisation’s culture be changed?
Friday 1st June 2018
This standalone event is also Module 5 of a six-module Ethical Leadership programme held during 2017 and 2018 at Lismullin Conference Centre near Navan, County Meath, Ireland, 40 minutes from Dublin. Further details are below.
The next EBEN international event is:
EBEN Annual Conference 2018
Tilburg, the Netherlands
27-29 June 2018
“Reinventing Capitalism – Business Ethics and its contribution to the “Doux Commerce”
Further details are below.
CLIMATE JUSTICE – LEADERSHIP WITH INTEGRITY
On 11th August 2017 EBENI made a submission to Ireland’s “Citizens’ Assembly” on how to make Ireland a world leader in tackling climate change. This 2 page submission entitled “Climate Justice, Integrity and Leadership – There Is No Right Way To Do A Wrong Thing” availed of business ethics principles especially those associated with innovative leadership with integrity.
It can be downloaded from both the Citizens’ Assembly website and from here:
Some ideas on Public Sector Reform:
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES ?
IS IRELAND AT A CROSSROADS AND WHAT DESTINATION SHOULD IT CHOOSE? LEADERSHIP WITH INTEGRITY? DYNAMIC PROGRESS OR LONGSTANDING STATUS QUO? DREAM OR NIGHTMARE? PROJECT 2022
We in EBEN Ireland have spent many years being critical of low standards in business and suggesting how counterproductive a lack of integrity can be, especially when it risks damaged trust and reputation, likened by Socrates to a fire – easier to keep kindled than to relight when extinguished.
But one of the “elephants in the room”, certainly not unique to Ireland, is that ‘lack of accountability, transparency and responsibility’ has been an often cited criticism of leadership of many democratic states, in effect not that different from dictatorships, particularly when no-one is held accountable for many forms of error and outright wrongdoing.
This contributed to the failure to prevent Ireland’s mid-1990s to 2008 “Celtic Tiger” economy collapsing as rapidly as anyone who had seen similar boom-busts before could have foreseen, and did, as any first year economics student who studied property cycles and recessions could have predicted.
When middle ranking Department of Finance officials who wanted to introduce remedial action well beforehand and bring their concerns to their Minister were denied the opportunity by their most senior colleagues, there was clearly something wrong – which recent evidence suggests remains to be addressed a decade later.
When the most severe penalty for unacceptable behaviour in the Irish Public Sector can be “early retirement on full pension”, where is the incentive to behave with integrity and set an admirable “tone at the top”?
Ireland took an international lead inspired by an innovative public servant in the 1950s with measures including “export sales relief” (corporation tax free exports) and establishing what is now IDA Ireland to attract foreign direct investment.
Ireland’s greatest export, it’s people, have proven to be industrious, innovative, creative, friendly and often generous, hence both respected and popular when working all around the world and at home.
Fortunately the Irish people are imaginative, hard working, resilient and far more courageous than the public leaders and previous governing politicians during the Celtic Tiger period prior to 2008 in whom they misplaced their trust.
The creativity of the Irish has been described in Asia as their ability ‘to think around corners’, a talent not shared with many of their Celtic Tiger political leaders, very few of whom have had significant business backgrounds. Fortunately, though, Ireland possesses many talented, well-educated and creative businesspeople across many sectors. Indeed had the business people been in charge of the nation, the picture could well have been very different.
Many larger firms, multinationals and indigenous, have experienced the endeavour of the Irish and are performing strongly, exporting well and indeed have been throughout the domestic and international turmoil of recent years.
They were free to take their own decisions without political interference yet with continuing support from vastly experienced State agencies, with a track record of attracting many of the world’s top firms to Ireland. The Industrial Development Authority – now IDA Ireland – was founded in 1950 and has been a global leader in this regard for over a generation while Enterprise Ireland provides strong support for indigenous firms.
Promises of a well educated, English speaking workforce with internationally recognised creativity, ready access to the EU market, low corporate taxes and a pro-business environment in many other key areas have been delivered and with post-bubble competitiveness improving, many international firms continue to choose to locate and grow in Ireland for these and a myriad of other reasons.
A further less frequently cited element is the ‘fun factor’ – people often find the Irish not only creative, talented and industrious but also easy to get on with. Their naturally friendly demeanour, sense of humour, quick wit and ability to laugh at themselves has exported well and resulted in many multinational corporations enjoying working with the Irish both overseas and in Ireland.
But another “elephant in the room” is that there are two key organisations within Irish society which appear to remain in a time warp, neither innovative, creative nor in touch with changing times, with antiquated procedures and governance which leaves a great deal to be desired, particularly when wrongdoers are protected – the Public Sector and Catholic Church – both apparently immune to change despite much evidence of lost trust and damaged reputation. Rules laid down in another era remain in place and “the way things have always been” prioritised over progress and modernity.
EBEN Ireland organised a “Church Ethics and Leadership” conference in Dublin in 2013 but has to date refrained from commenting in Ireland on the inadequacies of the work practices and culture apparently prevalent across the public sector, confirmed by discussions with over 20 employees in over 20 such bodies in recent years.
Recent developments would appear to confirm what a former Secretary General described a decade ago as “an endemic cover-up culture throughout the entire public sector”, led by those who seem to believe they can manage with impunity and without accountability to anyone including those who in effect employ them – the Irish people.
So just as EBEN and its members throughout Europe have been critical of low standards in business and constructive in offering solutions, especially in the areas of Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility, we in EBEN Ireland now believe we have no alternative but to also comment on low standards in public office.
A decade after the onset of substantial national crisis, little substantive appears to have changed.
We comment in the hope and expectation that being CONSTRUCTIVELY CRITICAL (because we care about the country and its people) will both inspire an improvement in governance AND inspire a work practice revolution which will allow Ireland’s many wonderful public servants, constrained by antiquated practices and procedures, who perform well despite rather than because of the culture evident in their organisations, to work in a far more inspirational environment. The focus needs to change from hindering and even prohibiting to permitting and indeed inspiring them to provide world-class levels of service to those they are employed to serve – the Irish public.
The Irish State NOW has the opportunity to break down many barriers to progress which have been erected over many decades which will allow our public servants to relish coming in to work because they know they are respected, their work is appreciated and THEY are afforded the opportunity of being masters of their own destiny, designing the way they conduct their work in a manner which they know facilitates them doing so in the most efficient, expeditious and (yes) enjoyable manner, as many other organisations in Ireland and elsewhere do as a matter of course.
Our public sector was wisely and astutely responsible for attracting many international firms to Ireland from the 1950s, recognising that the predominantly agricultural economy was failing and needed an industrial base. That having been achieved, what we evidently NOW have to tackle is the fact that our public sector itself in terms of work practices and culture seems not to have sufficiently evolved since that period around the 1950’s.
Let us remind ourselves though that we proved to be so inept at management of our State that the “Troika” (a Russian term meaning “Group of Three”) of European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had to intervene, as they also did in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain (all countries with national EBEN chapters).
Yet no-one in Ireland was held to account for our many and quite predictable failures and too little seen to have changed in the meantime.
Ireland and its people were failed by an almost Presidential style government, particularly from 1997 to 2011, when the State appeared not to be run by parliament nor the cabinet, rather by a variety of triumvirates of Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Finance Minister. Ireland’s constitution would not appear to have contemplated nor proposed that the State should be run by a trio of prime mister, deputy prime minister and finance minister. Rather it advocated cabinet government with an independent “Public Service” capable of astutely guiding politicians and providing salient management when the politicians proved to be more interested in electoral popularity than genuinely national leadership.
However instead of sensible, collaborative management with a long-term perspective, clearly temporary rising State revenues arising from (a) an international trading boom and (b) a domestic property boom, neither of which have ever proved to be sustainable before, were mis-spent with a misguided mantra of “if I have it, I’ll spend it”.
The opportunity was squandered due to a lack of leadership, vision and basic integrity.
When at last a finance minister realised that spending needed to be more astutely managed, he was replaced by someone who would spend, spend, spend and keep the people happy, failing to appreciate that this apparent bliss was more likely to turn to misery for many Irish people, as it soon did.
Those mis-managing Ireland, elected and unelected, only looked to the short-term as they almost tripled government spending and more than doubled the public sector pay bill, with staff numbers growing by almost a third and average salaries by two-thirds, not during an era of significant inflation. No-one seemed to factor in what may happen if government revenues actually fell. While the public primarily believed the subsequent national financial crisis was due to the near insolvency and bailout of banks, the reality is that when any entity triples its spending when income rises, it is opening itself up to deep trouble when income falls, as it did substantially.
The only institution in global society capable of consistently spending more than it earns is a country, termed “losses” for a corporation, because banks are usually willing to lend to nations to finance their “deficit”. But when the banks stop lending to a country, it is indicative of deep problems, requiring the intervention of organisations such as the IMF.
Ireland’s national debt had previously been astutely reduced and could even have been eliminated had that trend continued during boom times. Instead because mis-managed government spending continued substantially above income for some years following the onset of recession and mis-managed banks required substantial funds to “re-capitalise”, Ireland’s relatively low national debt increased five-fold, a burden for many years to come.
The ‘Pre-Budget Outlook’ published by the Irish Department of Finance in November 2009 was very revealing:
‘While taxation receipts have declined, total current expenditure has continued to increase. Although taxation is now back at 2003 levels, expenditure by Government Departments in 2009 is about 70 per cent above the level it was in that year’.
‘Another significant pressure is the upward movement of the Public Service pay bill which increased by 115 per cent between 2000 and 2008. This growth has arisen through a combination of an increase in the number of Public Service employees and increasing rates of pay. Average remuneration per employee increased by 68 per cent in the period since 2000 and public service numbers have increased by 29 per cent.’
In 1997 the Public Sector pay bill was €6.8bn with an average salary of €30,539. By 2009 the pay bill had risen to €20.1bn with an average salary of €64,592. increases of 196% and 115% respectively. During this period the number of public employees increased from 222,013 to 310,747, having peaked at 320,387 the previous year, an increase of 44%.
Even after the onset of recession, when the politicians were saying they had taken austerity measures, public spending was still rising. Could this be termed “responsible” management of the national finances, or “irresponsible”?
Forecasting and making allowances for what may happen when rising income declines is a basic expectation not only of corporate managers but also those tasked with managing a nation and its finances.
Isn’t that why nations have a Public Service employing qualified professionals when many of it’s politicians are experienced in neither business nor economics?
Ireland’s national finances collapse was entirely predictable and could so easily have been avoided, had those employed to manage the State done what they were employed to do, also the most basic expectation of people displaying “integrity”.
Did substantial pay increases for some senior State employees of around 100 per cent blind them to the reality which would clearly follow a tripling in government spending?
When the financial crisis hit, some even campaigned against salary related cuts of around 20 percent. A net salary gain of around 80 per cent during times of low inflation was an unjust reward for those who refused to put the best interests of the nation first, when they should have realised that the public sector pay and staffing increases were predominantly financed by private sector firms trading well during a boom and even more temporary revenues arising from a property boom which would soon and inevitably become a bust.
First year economics and accounting students displaying not only integrity but also basic common sense could have done better than those extremely well paid professionals who would appear to have turned a blind eye to the inevitability of their incompetence. And did anyone accept responsibility? Was anyone held accountable? Or does that not happen in Ireland?
The ‘Celtic Tiger’, a phrase coined by economist Kevin Gardner, refers to a period from the mid-1990s during which Ireland’s economic growth was the highest in Europe. This Celtic Tiger era could have laid the foundation for decades of prosperity and a fairer and more just society… had integrity been at the core of national decision-making.
The then leaders, though, lacked the vision to avail of the opportunity presented by unprecedented rising taxation and related revenues. Failing to learn from a multitude of prior local and international boom-bust scenarios, they mistook a Property Boom as being an integral and even admirable part of the thriving Celtic Tiger economy. The two, however, should never have been equated, with the former erroneously permitted to develop alongside the latter. Although the high growth Celtic Tiger economy petered out with the onset of global recession, it was the Property Boom which had the most serious aftermath, with borrowers overextended and banks requiring recapitalisation.
During the preceding decade Irish politicians and public service leaders had received substantial pay and pension increases, ‘benchmarked’ with the upper echelons of management in modern, efficient, service oriented and profitable private sector enterprises. Yet when crunch came to crunch, those tasked with leadership responsibilities in Ireland avoided the serious decisions which many private sector corporate leaders would have taken in their stride.
At a time when decisive corrective action was both needed and advocated, the then leaders repeated what they had become well practiced at. They avoided the issues, denied the undeniable, berated their critics and shied away from remedial action.
The then governing politicians had sought preservation of power above all else. But they had become used to their primary loyalty being to their political party and the most influential members of society. When it came to astutely using the political power granted them by the people, whom they should have respected as their primary stakeholders, they had so little practice using it for the genuine national interest that when this was what was most required – putting the people and their needs, present and future, first – they floundered.
When recession came and national “turnover” dropped dramatically, modest pay cuts including an increased pension contribution were eventually introduced, the heavier cuts initially imposed on the most senior Public Sector management were quietly reduced, while management refrained from taking decisive corrective measures, including updating an outdated organisational structure and culture.
It wasn’t just the most senior State employees who benefitted from Ireland’s Celtic Tiger boom period, extraordinarily its State pensioners did too.
Senior public servants in Ireland remain amongst the best paid with one of the world’s most generous pension schemes, with many pensioners entitled to similar pay increases to incumbent employees, not paid from actuarially managed pension schemes but from day-to-day revenues.
This state of affairs was well illustrated by one former university economics professor who explained how “my PENSION almost doubled during the Celtic Tiger period.” Ireland did not just “incentivise” its State employees during the boom, it incentivised its State pensioners too.
Such generous pensions appear to have been insufficiently factored in when their pay was ‘benchmarked’ by a not entirely transparent process between July 2000 and June 2002 with private sector salaries. A university economist resigned from the benchmarking body shortly before publication of its 2002 report.
Surely in such circumstances of having failed the Irish people so demonstratively in the recent past, it is incumbent on the most conscientious and dedicated of Ireland’s undoubtedly high quality and well educated senior public servants to NOW seek to transform the antiquated work practices and “don’t rock the boat” culture which its employees have to suffer, especially when their own substantial salary increases were based on a “benchmarking” comparison with senior managerial salaries in highly efficient and notably customer service oriented private sector firms employing modern work practices?
It is the least the Irish people could belatedly expect of those tasked with leadership of their nation that they might now display the integrity so lacking during the Celtic Tiger period.
The more recent Irish economic recovery compared with those other European nations visited by the Troika has not been because of the introduction of profound governance changes in the way we manage and organise our government and public sector, rather because Ireland had previously established a strong industrial base with over 1,000 multinationals choosing to locate here.
Many impressive and ambitious indigenous firms have simultaneously developed from Ireland’s constructive and supportive business culture and rapidly evolving entrepreneurial environment, well assisted by a State body, Enterprise Ireland.
Many such organisations feature modern, flexible, adaptive, efficient and dynamic workplaces, often enjoyable and even inspirational places to work, capable of bringing out the best in their people, in stark contrast to the “mechanisms of the state” which have changed little since the time such firms were first attracted to our shores and indeed have in the meantime been actively discouraged and prevented from changing.
While the Irish economy has been improving since the collapse of 2008, the provision of public services has by and large not and appears to be constantly in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Perhaps we should not be surprised. Could this be because of the way our public sector is structured and managed?
Indeed what has changed since 2008? Accountability? Transparency? Responsibility? Culture?
Do we seem to have learned any lessons arising from the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy or appear to be doomed to repeat the same mistakes?
Do we really need the Troika to revisit and enforce the required and substantial change which we appear to be incapable of introducing by ourselves?
We celebrated the exit of the Troika even if their work transpired to be very incomplete. It would seem this was treated as being the end of the significant progress that was required to transform the antiquated operational mechanisms of the Irish State, when really their work represented just the beginning.
The Troika’s departure also seems to have been treated as being the end of the sense of urgency that necessitated the IMF and EU having to intervene in the management of our State because we had proved to be incapable of doing so ourselves, ignoring all warnings that we were driving at full speed down a cul-de-sac instead of applying the brakes.
What should have been the beginning of the end of a failed operational culture little changed over a century instead appears to have been the end of the beginning of the substantial and rapid change that the collapse of the Celtic Tiger era signalled was so necessary.
It is now increasingly evident that what most needed to be “benchmarked” from 2000 to 2002 then promptly reinvented was operational practices, not salaries.
Especially when the comparison was with the earnings of those working for modern, flexible, adaptable, service-driven and dynamic organisations for whom everything associated with “status quo” is reviled, not “change” which is an integral part of the fabric of such firms.
Indeed substantial public sector work practice improvements and modernisation were supposed to have been a key part of the “benchmarking” process.
It should be recalled that 75 per cent of the “benchmarking” related salary increases were ‘strongly recommended’ to be paid only after work practice improvements commenced. When then Finance Minister and subsequent EU Commissioner McCreevy was asked in 2002 what would happen if the work practice improvements never actually commenced, he replied that 75 per cent of the salary increases should not be awarded.
Work practice improvements which were supposed to have been introduced as part of the 2000-2002 “benchmarking” process by and large remain unaddressed nearly two decades later.
Does the proudly “independent” Irish nation really want to arrive at the anniversary of 2022 with a similar public service “culture” we inherited from our former colonial rulers in 1922?
Indeed British politicians and Civil Servants appear to be more accountable than ours as they actually resign when found to have been involved in mistakes and wrongdoing.
As things stand, “the way we do things” especially the “culture” appears to be so similar to that inherited from British Rule in 1922, facilitated by some of their civil servants as our public service was established, and so little appears to have changed in the meantime, that we do not yet appear to have gained our “Independence” from a culture and work practices that require our parliamentarians to far too frequently stand up in the Dáil and not only “defend the indefensible” but defend what they know in their hearts to be indefensible.
All that changes is the party of the Minister and the Opposition, because all Ministers in all Governments since the foundation of our State have had to defend the actions or inactivity of nameless, blameless and unaccountable individuals, protected by an unspoken mantra that because they are employees of the State they are above reproach.
Until we have introduced fully modern work practices and radically changed the “culture” we are incapable and undeserving of being perceived as either a “modern” or “Independent State”.
THE OPPORTUNITY 2022 PRESENTS
The Irish celebrated 1916 in 2016 with aplomb, although 1916 was only the beginning of a process culminating in Independence in 1922.
Maybe we should look on 2016 as having been the same. The beginning of a process of change which will culminate in significant “cultural reform” by January 2022?
Maybe if we pretended that we have just received our Independence we could actually start totally afresh, as it seems not unlike “zero based budgeting” we need to start fully from scratch and design totally new processes and ways of doing things.
OECD Reports and Troika have made little difference, so why do we not as a nation proud of its innovative and creative people, NOW decide to turn our talents to creating a NEW VISION for our public sector and in so doing, like TK Whitaker and Séan Lemass did in the 1950s, set an example for Public Sector organisations around the world by breaking down all barriers to progress not by tinkering at the edges but by starting from scratch and changing “the way we do things” so substantially and admirably that no organisation in the world can lay claim to doing it better?
We need to give all our public sector employees the opportunity to contribute, inspiring them to suggest visionary ideas outlining how much better the work could be performed, knowing they will be promptly actioned and no longer ignored, allowing them to come to work in a modern organisation which fully supports them providing a world-class service to the public, not detract from them doing so because of many barriers to progress developed over the decades.
And let us not procrastinate. We have the opportunity to transform “the way we do things” in time to genuinely celebrate the anniversary of our Independence in 2022, ensuring:
“equal rights and equal opportunities to all our citizens” and a renewed dedication “to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts.”
As well as the fine but unachieved ideals of our 1916 proclamation, many fine words have been spoken by Irish people down the centuries which could inspire us to “make our nation a better place to live and work”.
For instance, we could also turn for inspiration to many of the fine and apt words of one of our greatest exports, the Irish born and subsequent Westminster parliamentarian, Edmund Burke, who said
“a State without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation” and “nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
Perhaps the “mantras” for our “Project 2022” endeavour, featuring our well renowned “spirit of the meitheal”, because it will require substantial yet constructive, collaborative, productive and ultimately fruitful endeavour, as experience with many organisations suggests it can and will inspire and allow rather than prevent and inhibit many of our wonderful public sector employees to “produce their best”, could be:
“the status quo is not an option”
“ní neart go cur le chéile”.
Let us “dream” of making Ireland a better and fairer place to live and work, then stop at nothing and let no barriers prevent us from turning our dreams into reality.
Unless little people, make a little effort, to make a little difference, nothing changes…
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES ?
Throughout all societies, sectors and cultures, the degree of personal integrity of an organisation’s senior individuals contributes significantly to the prevailing level of corporate integrity, with some cultures facilitating and promoting and others prohibiting and hindering the personal integrity of employees coming to the fore.
Intolerance of low integrity by leaders of high personal integrity ensures unethical instances are not condoned or repeated, while the acceptance of low integrity by lesser leaders ensures instances are permitted and hence more likely to be repeated by the corporate culture prevalent within their organisation, not resulting in healthy workplaces where people feel inspired to produce their best and contribute to gradually evolving change. Protecting wrongdoers damages the health of everyone else as well as those other critical ingredients in the mix of what makes for a successful organisation – trust and reputation.
If integrity has been described as “doing the right thing when no-one is looking”, when those the people trust to manage a State fail to “do the right thing when everyone is looking”, without any apparently adverse consequences for actions which if known would disappoint many, compounded by a lack of accountability, transparency and leadership, a poor example is set which would not be tolerated in any other sector of society.
The mantra needs to become “the status quo is not be an option” not a policy of “endemic cover-up” if Ireland is to be seen as a modern, fair, efficient and truly democratic State, led by people of integrity, both those elected and unelected by the people to do so.
All of whom we trust to “do the right thing” – by the people, not themselves. All of whom we expect to possess and display the courage required to provide the leadership with integrity which so many people in Irish society from a diversity of backgrounds provide on a daily basis in their own organisations, quietly and to no acclaim.
Like in many other nations, this is what they also expect of those in more public positions of leadership, who are expected to be more completely accountable to the public they are employed to serve with a “duty of care”.
Except in Ireland where the opposite can apply and accountability is only conspicuous by its absence. We should not forget that this is SBT – Sad But True – as we ever so gradually evolve as an evidently fledgling nation with poor performers and leaders lacking in the courage normally associated with such a role protected by an unspoken mantra that because they are employees of the State they are above reproach.
How many public servants have been fired for “doing the wrong thing” or for substandard performance, even by low standards?
When protecting such people is seen to be “the right thing” rather than “the wrong thing”, how can those responsible expect others in society – including those in business – to prioritise integrity in their multitude of dealings, when those who conspicuously “do the wrong thing” appear to “get away with it”?
The public are not fooled when malpractices are covered up, then exposed, with no-one culpable held to be accountable. Yet somehow throughout the decades in Irish society, those responsible seem to believe that the public are fooled and expect no better. Being employed by the State – especially in a position of authority and leadership – should result in a higher not lesser level of accountability.
Alas in so many instances in our history precisely the opposite has been the case. The higher up someone is in society, the greater the amount of responsibility, the lower the level of accountability. “Getting away with it” has seemed to be the primary ambition, often achieved, as if that was all that mattered. And as if no-one noticed. Or cared.
The fact is that many do notice and are very concerned that low integrity at the top of society filters down. But feel powerless as they observe the propinquity as endemic in Irish society as the culture of cover-up and denial of responsibility, evident when those chosen to be the guardians at the gate believe themselves to be in such a privileged position of impunity that they are accountable to nobody but themselves. Which means they get away scot-free with any form of wrongdoing and hope no-one notices. But they do.
If those who hold positions of trust face no penalty when they breach this trust, including loss of position, where is the incentive to perform well and do and be seen to do the right thing? Remaining nameless and blameless is not the answer. Nor is setting up tribunals and enquiries with no powers to admonish those they find to be culpable, years later.
When such people are removed from organisations, the culture has an opportunity to improve especially if those with vision and integrity are allowed to flourish. But when such people are protected and promoted, the culture is more likely to degenerate and those with integrity go back into their shells, dislike coming to work, underperform and may opt to leave.
Yet it is precisely such concerned and creative people with a conscience and perhaps a social conscience and an eye for improvement who are just the type that organisations need to suggest and run with many ideas and reforms and be strongly and unanimously supported in doing so.
Especially by those who mistakenly believe that they benefit from the status quo but lack the imagination and willpower to pro-actively suggest improvements themselves. “I’m alright jack” people without the vision to see beyond the status quo which suits them just fine as it contributes to a not-too-demanding job. Even if many other employees as a consequence of “little or no change” are uninspired to fully contribute and hence produce well below their best,
“Sitting on the fence” never improved an organisation and in a competitive marketplace such firms are passed by and then wonder why they are floundering in comparison with more dynamic organisations which encourage their people to be “pro-active”. In contrast “reactive” organisations can only do something new or different when they are faced with little alternative and can actively discourage their people from suggesting ideas for improvement. In due course the more capable, creative and interested staff just give up trying and the organisation becomes neither proactive nor reactive, rather “inactive”.
When people are more inspired by going home rather than coming to work and their voluntary work in other organisations such as sporting and cultural engages them far more than their primary workplace, there is clearly something wrong, especially when absenteeism and sick leave are a notable feature and indicative of an unhealthy environment.
When those who care sufficiently for their organisation to want to improve it, yet become frustrated when their attempts to seek improvements fall on deaf ears, when they see little or no other option but to “blow the whistle” externally on poor internal practices or wrongdoing, when they are viewed by the culture as “disgraceful” parasites for wanting to draw attention to opportunities for improvement and misguided colleagues instead prefer to try to assassinate their characters in private and public, there is clearly something wrong.
Such people need to be encouraged to draw attention to inadequacies, suggest changes and be included in the team taking rapid steps taken to introduce whatever may be required to make progress. That is what happens in many progressive organisations. It is one of the key elements in their culture and their people take “continuous improvement” for granted as it is so commonplace.
When people at all levels are encouraged to suggest improvements, organisations evolve and make progress. Astute managers appreciate that it is often people who perform the daily work who really know “how things are done” and are best equipped to suggest improvements. Environments which encourage them to make their contribution become better places to work and provide higher levels of service. In contrast, when the environment discourages people “in the know” from contributing their ideas, does anyone win at all?
Indeed when leaders believe they need to respond to suggestions or criticisms by “attacking the accuser” rather than embracing and implementing change, they are clearly in the wrong role, for many reasons including setting the wrong “tone at the top” by failing to set an admirable example for their colleagues to follow.
When the organisation lacks adequate internal mechanisms for genuine improvements to be reported, evaluated and rapidly introduced by management open to change, there is clearly something wrong.
When the “customer service” mantra is CAN DO, customers come back for more rather than to the competitors. But when the customer service mantra is CAN’T DO or, even worse, COULD DO BUT WON’T DO, when “it’s not my job” prevails over doing that little more to better serve customers, there is clearly something wrong.
People should always feel inspired to better serve customers and in turn achieve higher job satisfaction from doing so. Not be prevented by policies and practices from prioritising the customer and giving them the best possible service. The most important people in organisations can be those with “frontline” customer service responsibilities. When crunch comes to crunch, many of the other roles may not be required unless they genuinely support those whose task is to service the customer.
One of the greatest organisational secrets is that treating people with respect, indeed as people would like to be treated themselves, particularly including them rather than excluding them, satisfies and inspires them.
Another secret reserved for the better organisations is that “super-serving” the customer (the reason employees have their job) ultimately satisfies both the customer and the employee. But when “going the extra mile” is frowned upon rather than applauded, there is clearly something wrong.
But who has the courage to address such matters? And who has the vision to realise the necessity of eradicating many status quo practices which do not support prioritising efficient customer service? Indeed quite the contrary, extraordinary as this may seem in an organisation entitled “public service”.
The better organisations regularly examine “the way we do things” and streamline policies and practices to ensure the customer is best served. Not the employees, who themselves benefit from the satisfaction of better serving their customers rather than be frustrated when they cannot.
The better organisations often “start from scratch” when evaluating processes and roles rather than perpetuating older, failed and no longer appropriate practices. Believe it or not, such dynamic organisations can be much better places to work.
Do those who actively prevent change realise that both they and their employees – as well as their customers – could all substantially benefit from doing things differently and better?
There are many failings in the private sector, although many dynamic organisations do inspire people to genuinely co-operate with each other and support those who try to transform “the way we do business” to better both their organisational lives and the people the entity was established to serve – their customers – who are often their number one priority.
However when the priority of the organisation is the welfare of management and employees, not the customers. When work practices are designed to suit employees not facilitate optimum customer-service, organisations both in public and private ownership underperform and their people can be uninspired. Quite the opposite should be the case.
Customers can receive substantially lower service levels than could be the case if they were genuinely the number one priority and work practices (such as 24 hour utilisation of expensive machinery) catered exclusively for the benefit of the people the organisation was formed to serve – the customers, not employees. This should usually if not always be the case.
When too many people are employed in one area and too few in another and “never the twain shall meet”, organisations both in public and private ownership can underperform and their people can be uninspired, featuring some too stressed from overwork while others learn to expand half a day’s work to fill their full day. Quite the opposite should be the case.
When those who speak up to improve “the way we do things” or denounce wrongdoing are criticised and even intimidated and vilified, sometimes publicly as well as privately, organisations both in public and private ownership can underperform and their people can be uninspired. Quite the opposite should be the case.
When those highly conservative by nature, unlikely to “upset the apple cart”, are promoted and those enthusiastic to make the place much better are not, organisations both in public and private ownership can underperform and many of their people can be uninspired. Quite the opposite should be the case.
When the modestly talented and even poor performers are promoted and the more talented, creative, visionary, dynamic, committed and enthusiastic people are not, organisations both in public and private ownership can underperform and many of their people can be uninspired. Quite the opposite should be the case.
When wrongdoing is protected rather than adequately addressed, organisations both in public and private ownership can underperform and many of their people can be uninspired. Quite the opposite should be the case.
Cover-up should become the dirty word, not change.
LIVING OUR 1916 DREAM
The ideals so admirably described by some of our “founding fathers” in our 1916 Proclamation have alas not been lived up to, especially in “the way we do business” as a State. But it is not and never will be too late to revisit these, notably:
“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”
This century old document in many respects, notably equality of opportunity, was well before its time, even though the same could not now be said about the State it established. it is not too late thought embrace these 1916 aspirations and deliver “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”, with everyone in society equally accountable.
Many public sector organisations (at home and abroad) could become far more dynamic workplaces and provide much higher service levels, satisfying both customers and employees alike – if only they were permitted to.
Where are the courageous and selfless visionaries like TK Whitaker when most required?
Perhaps it could be he, sharing a podium with a well known US reformer, to Irish citizens gathered not around the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC but around the waters of the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square, who in the Ireland of today might now state:
- I have a dream that “transparency, accountability and responsibility” will be accepted as the norm rather than the exception.
- I have a dream that wrongdoing will no longer be accepted nor acceptable.
- I have a dream that those responsible will be held to account – not protected – and those who abuse power, lose power.
- I have a dream that people will own up to mistakes and rectify them rather than cover them up and those who sweep wrongdoing “under the carpet” have their lack of integrity exposed and be denied any further opportunity to do so again.
- I have a dream that women and men, each half the population, be treated equally and that they and others will no longer be viewed as “minorities”, with all such differences ignored as matters such as pay, conditions and opportunity for promotion to the most senior positions be decided purely on terms of merit.
- I have a dream that instead of tinkering at the edges and giving the impression of making progress, “the way we currently and have always done things” will be ignored as far more appropriate and modern “ways of doing things” will be designed “from the ground up”, especially by those who do the work, whose ideas are too often either not sought or ignored.
- I have a dream that those who bully and intimidate colleagues be held to account and the self-centred and excessively proud, more interested in themselves than others, will be seen for what they are and denied promotional opportunities and what they most crave – power.
- I have a dream that strong and selfless performers will be rewarded, incentivised and promoted, not permitted to become disenchanted and contribute a fraction of their potential, and those with genuine people management skills, more interested in others than themselves, be promoted instead of the self-centred and become the new breed of managers in all organisations.
- I have a dream that work practices will primarily favour customers and “how do we better serve the customer?” will replace “what’s in it for me?” with the only “sense of entitlement” being that of the significant service expectations of customers – not rewards for staff whether they make a significant contribution or not.
- I have a dream that CAN DO not CAN’T DO or WON’T DO will be the primary customer service mantra and IT’S NOT MY JOB will be replaced by WE’LL SEE WHAT WE CAN DO, when appropriate.
- I have a dream that “frontline” staff will be allowed design the work practices they believe will result in customers being rapidly and appropriately responded to – so matters such as delays, denials and long waiting lists will become a thing of the past.
- I have a dream that barriers to progress will be eradicated not erected and the “purpose” of each work practice be evaluated and if not positive, constructive and contributing to better service, be eradicated as no longer appropriate in the 21st Century to be replaced by simpler measures with a demonstratively positive, constructive and ultimately customer service-oriented purpose.
- I have a dream that staff will no longer be limited to narrow and limited roles and may be incentivised to learn how to perform a variety of different tasks, so as many people as required can perform whatever the priority of the day may be; that those in authority may appreciate that staff skilled in a variety of tasks will not just make a wider contribution but also derive more job satisfaction from not having to do the same thing all the time.
- I have a dream that work currently required to be performed by a number of people after each other with delays inherently built into the process be instead performed on a more timely basis by one person trained to perform all the tasks without any unnecessary delays; that variety, timeliness, job satisfaction and customer service all be improved by taking a “business process” perspective and eradicating all unnecessary steps, assisted by availing of modern technology.
- I have a dream that management information systems support operational staff and supply them with the information they need to make the most astute and appropriate decisions.
- I have a dream that “underspending the budget” be incentivised and applauded rather than treated as a crime and each spending measure be fully evaluated and justified leading to more efficient use of valuable resources rather than just taking the previous budget plus a percentage increase; recessionary times should indicate how resources can be better utilised and this should be the mindset during better times too; that a flexible approach to budgets often prepared some time ago allow newer matters which arise to be prioritised ahead of less important matters; with “that can’t be done because it isn’t be in the budget” being replaced by a more imaginative approach to best use of available resources.
- I have a dream whereby those who feel inspired to “make a difference” will believe there is nothing to prevent them doing so and “suggestion boxes” will be overflowing with visionary ideas outlining how much better the work could be performed, knowing their ideas and suggestions will be promptly evaluated, actioned and no longer ignored.
- I have a dream that the only “barriers” to progress which will be permitted will be those preventing a return to “the way we used do things”.
- I have a dream that when mistakes are made people aware or responsible will be allowed say “sorry” and make amends – not deny responsibility and force the innocent to revert to the justice system for remedy, continuing and compounding their misery – not a methodology associated with best practice and integrity.
- I have a dream that those who point fingers and blame others will be incentivised to accept responsibility for their errors and suggest how they may best be avoided in future
- I have a dream that politicians will not have to “deny the undeniable” and cover up for poor performance from those who remain nameless, blameless and unaccountable.
- I have a dream that Reports will be actioned not allowed gather dust on shelves; that Auditor and Comptroller General and similar reports will be prioritised and suggestions for improvement promptly enabled and penalties be applied when not.
- I have a dream that instead of committees being formed to delay or avoid making decisions, managers will be empowered to take courageous decisions and everyone allowed to learn from the experience if some do not work out as well as expected.
- I have a dream that sitting on the fence will be a thing of the past and that openness, honesty and transparency will become commonplace with secrecy and silos being consigned to history.
- I have a dream that no-one will ever have to “deny the undeniable” or “defend the indefensible” because it will become acceptable to own up to errors, once everyone involved learns from the experience how to do better and “the way we do things” be capable of adapting, responding and improving as a result.
- I have a dream that Enquiries be rapid and possess authority to apportion guilt and apply penalties.
- I have a dream that findings of Enquiries be admissible in a Court of Law.
- I have a dream that “level” may refer to a level playing field of opportunity and service not the multitude of levels of hierarchy which stymie decision making, responsibility and progress.
- I have a dream that only better performers will be allowed and incentivised to progress up the levels and those who do not perform or inspire will be allowed go back down the levels to their level of competence.
- I have a dream that those with the vision to see the opportunity how to do things better, who care sufficiently to want to “make a difference” and with the courage to make a stand for progress, will be encouraged rather than discouraged from doing so.
- I have a dream that those who criticise antiquated or inappropriate practices will no longer be attacked, vilified and sidelined, rather be applauded, recognised, rewarded and included in the improvement process.
- I have a dream that public servants be deemed to work for one organisation – the “public service” – and thus be given the opportunity of seamlessly working in different areas with no barriers to movement, for shorter or longer periods as required.
- I have a dream that the solution to work pressures not be solely seen to be solved by taking on more people to work in antiquated environments and the primary solution like in many other organisations to areas being particularly busy be assistance by having people transferred from quieter areas for as long as necessary, not necessarily from the same entity, and that managers not be judged on staff numbers employed rather their ability to be constructive and co-operative with how and where the staff are most gainfully deployed and visibly making the most significant contribution to satisfying the needs of the moment.
- I have a dream that reward structures be simplified and antiquated practices no longer in operation elsewhere in society be replaced by more modern and streamlined processes centred around maximising customer service.
- I have a dream that those who find their careers stalled will no longer be those who “want to make a difference” rather those who contribute little and hope their non-contribution will not be noticed.
- I have a dream that those who contribute little will be inspired to contribute a great deal more and helped if they cannot or moved to a role which may better suit their talents, otherwise allowed leave.
- I have a dream that “sick leave” will become a thing of the past and unnecessary as it is elsewhere in business as working environments become happier and healthier and those who lack integrity and cheat their employer by availing of sick leave inappropriately be allowed seek employment elsewhere.
- I have a dream that performance reviews be genuine and adequately reflect particularly good or notably disappointing work – as everyone else knows who does and doesn’t make a decent contribution and this should be properly reflected in reviews with inadequate performance no longer covered up and poorer performers protected from the consequences of their own actions.
- I have a dream that those who do not currently contribute to society but could be capable of doing so are no longer paid and incentivised by a system which does not inspire them to make a fair contribution and boost their own self-esteem in the process; that like antiquated work processes the social welfare system will be approached as if it were being started again from scratch with the “purpose” of each measure being evaluated rather than “tacked on” to the old on a haphazard and piecemeal basis.
- I have a dream that HR Departments will support managers who refuse to promote non-performers – not castigate them and force them to retire.
- I have a dream that integrity will be associated with “doing the right thing when no-one is looking” and that “doing the wrong thing when everyone is looking” will be penalised not rewarded.
- I have a dream that instead of or as well as reinventing the wheel, best practice be sought from any organisations and sectors elsewhere and these be tailored and applied by “frontline staff” in the manner that they deem best allows them to serve their customers, without exception or barriers.
- I have a dream that any culture of silence be replaced by a culture of openness.
- I have a dream that the nightmare of poor service, disenchanted and uninspired staff, lack of accountability, responsibility and transparency, the wrong people promoted, the best people leaving, cover-ups exposed resulting in enquiries and tribunals, et al, will be deemed to be “disgraceful”.
- I have a dream that the nightmare experienced by people with the courage to speak up saying “we need to do better” being branded as “disgraceful” may be replaced by them instead being appreciated, respected and encouraged.
- I have a dream that no-one will be scared of introducing flexibility which has been prevalent elsewhere for many decades amongst firms acknowledged to be great places to work, resulting in staff and management enjoying coming in to work in places where good performers are rewarded but shirkers not tolerated, featuring minimal absenteeism and non-existent disputes.
- I have a dream that “joined up thinking” may be the order of the day instead of instances arising such as a multitude of vacant and half-completed properties being sold at a substantial cost and loss to the State to overseas funds and investors when too many of our own people were homeless; I have a dream that different parts of the same “public service” may act as if that is what they are, unified by the vision to try something new when this is what is most needed.
- I have a dream that those who cite excuses such as “legal problems” may, ultimately being the law-makers themselves, change laws which pose barriers to progress and modernisation.
- I have a dream that political parties will constructively support policies which they may have introduced themselves rather than just opposing for the sake of opposing and that parliamentarians will be incentivised to put the “national interest” before the “local” and that of “interest groups” and the electorate will vote for those who do rather than “what’s in it for me?”
- I have a dream that workplace cultures will facilitate and promote not prohibit and hinder the personal integrity of employees coming to the fore and that intolerance of low integrity by leaders of high personal integrity will ensure unethical instances are not condoned or repeated.
- I have a dream that acceptance of low integrity by lesser leaders who tolerate and cover up wrongdoing and by ensuring unethical behaviour is permitted allow and indeed incentivise this to be repeated by the pernicuous culture prevalent within their organisation be no longer accepted and they be held to account for their lack of integrity and leadership and tone at the top epitomised by the rot setting in from the head to the tail.
- I have a dream that people will be made leaders because they have a vision for a new, improved, innovative and revitalised public sector, the courage to make it happen and the leadership skills to ensure that everyone else is sufficiently inspired to share these goals and strongly contribute to actually making it happen, not for adhering to the long established, antiquated and discredited status quo, which lost its relevance elsewhere in society a half century ago and ultimately benefits nobody.
- I have a dream that group welfare prevails over personal gain, service prevails over pursuit of power, humility prevails over pretentiousness and pride, kindness prevails over aggression and over-assertiveness, calmness prevails over anger, consideration for others prevails over egotism and self-importance, guidance prevails over manipulation, activity prevails over pontification, kindness prevails over greed, vision prevails over narrow-mindedness, listening over talking, openness over secrecy, sensitivity over insensitivity and apathy, considerate words over cruel, an open mind over a closed one, owning up over covering up, admission over bluffing, honesty over deceit, rectitude over dishonesty, candidness over collusion, openness over connivance and complicity, veracity over falsehood, credibility over improbability, reliability over implausibility, fact over fiction, politeness over rudeness, modesty over arrogance, tact over indiscretion, praise over criticism, giving credit over taking it, apology over blame, ideas over silence, respect over disrespect, dedication over disinterest, loyalty over disloyalty, fidelity over treachery, maintaining confidences over rumor-mongering, courageous decision making over popularity, action over words, quality over excessive speed yet decisiveness over indecision and delay, macro over micro, allegiance over enmity, legality over illegality, integrity over legality, confidence over fear, harmony over disquiet, stability over uncertainty, reassurance over insecurity, forgiveness over retribution, like over dislike, progress over the status quo, discipline over indiscipline, planning over shortcuts, endeavor over laziness, encouragement over discouragement, inclusion over exclusion, support over back-stabbing, organisation over fiefdoms, the team over the individual, consistency over unreliability, collaboration over being unco-operative, co-operation over conflict, agreement over dissent, allegiance over sedition, optimism over pessimism, motivation over disinterest, adventure over unnecessary caution, reflection over excessive haste, personal values over corporate, people over wealth, patience over impulsiveness, understanding over suspicion, proactivity over inactivity, long term success over short term opportunism, reputation over risk and trust over mistrust, with the aim that more people are motivated by giving than taking, that those who derive greater satisfaction from contributing to the group and encouraging others to do so will be favoured and promoted over those whose expectations are centered around what they can extract for themselves rather than offer, that breakdowns in trust will be less frequent occurrences because all involved will more regularly consider one simple question before they act: “would you do business with someone you don’t trust?”
- I have a dream that it is not just frontline staff and customers who see their job satisfaction boosted but management too be proud of their achievements as they introduce far better ways of doing things; I have a dream that managers will be assessed not on size of budget or numbers employed rather how well they have modernised; that judgement be based on how much of the old has been replaced and how measurable service has been improved; how budgets have been under rather than over spent; how imagination and streamlining allows far more to be done with similar resources; I have a dream that senior managers share all these “dreams” and particularly that they pretend that they are the Troika looking in dispassionately from the outside and asking “how many of our processes would competitors want to replicate?”
- I have a dream that the total opposite of “the way we have always done things” will be found to contribute to a better, more inspirational, more customer responsive and ultimately far healthier work environment for everyone involved.
- I have a dream that “tribunals” and “enquiries” will no longer be necessary and “cover-ups” never again be considered because before people act and take bad decisions they will assume the matter will become public, as it often does, and will first evaluate the situation by always considering the simple ten word advice of Blanchard & Peale: “THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DO A WRONG THING”.
- I have a dream that everyone in every organisation of the State and elsewhere cannot wait to get to work because the environment will be so fair, inclusive, empowering and pro-active that they genuinely feel so enthused and inspired to produce their best that their lives and those of their customers will be enriched and fulfilled.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
Experience with many organisations in many sectors suggests ALL these dreams AND MORE are realisable. Imaginative people familiar with their own work situation, enthused by the opportunity to “do what we do better” will be able to suggest a multitude of ideas for improvement and derive extraordinary satisfaction from being empowered to introduce better ways of doing things. Sometimes these may be the informal practices which people have just introduced on their own initiative because they “made sense” to do so.
At the end of the day what is most required in such circumstances is – common sense – although this is alas not as common as it should be.
For too many public service workers, and others working in either old-fashioned or even intimidatory environments, of which there are too many, their working life is a “nightmare” because it falls far short of inspiring them to produce their best and the many who perform more than admirably do so not because of the culture they operate in, in fact despite it, rather because of the truly wonderful and often selfless people they are. They deserve better.
As do those customers they are prevented from better servicing because of archaic ways of doing things which have not been a feature of many other work environments for many decades, perhaps half a century, featuring no absenteeism and only ocasional and genuine sick leave (for health not work-related reasons) because, by and large, people look forward to coming in to work over which they believe they have some influence and control and feel they are making a decent contribution which is often – but not always – well appreciated.
For too many recipients of public services their experience can be a “nightmare” because over many decades the “way we do things” developed not to prioritise serving them but to ensure more people were employed, jobs were protected whether people performed well or not, on terms so complicated that additional tasks warranted extra payment and decision-making authority was centred around people at the top of the tree who were more incentivised to avoid than take courageous decisions. No wonder service standards vary so much and little seems to have changed since Independence with “the system” seemingly stuck in a 1950s time-warp.
The “status quo” prevails, customer service suffers and welfare of workers – which the culture apparently prioritises although it resulted in absenteeism and disgruntlement because of the “elephant in the room” which is that significant progress is near impossible because of the “antiquated culture” and the fear of upsetting those who protect “the way we have always done things”.
In most organisations management make the decisions and staff implement them, greatly facilitated by staff involvement and inclusion in the decision-making process. In very few organisations do staff get the opportunity to veto the improvements which management believe to be necessary and in even fewer do they get the chance to vote whether they want to implement changes from the status quo or not.
Management and staff in many other organisations and sectors would view such a scenario as bizarre, as their experience tells them that better ways of doing things often makes for more interesting and varied jobs and more satisfied customers. Preventing progress denies employees the opportunity to make their working lives more interesting with “serving the customer” often not on the agenda as “negotiations” are held any time something needs to be changed.
Employee representative bodies were formed over a century ago especially when factory workers were particularly severely maltreated, as they still can be in Asia and elsewhere, and they are still very much required in such situations. But when they argue against any changes and seek pay increases for anything different, they may actually be contributing to a disgruntled workforce forced to do the same thing day in day out in an environment which has little changed for decades.
There is something wrong when culture and practices not only fail to inspire people to produce their best but may also contribute to boredom, monotony and a far less emotionally healthy workplace. This can happen when barriers to progress are erected and become institutionalised. Employee welfare, instead of being enhanced, can be negatively impacted.
There is also something wrong when people can be more incentivised to be uncooperative than collaborative. This can also happen when barriers to progress are erected and become institutionalised, preventing employees becoming more engaged in what is going on and included in “making it better”, more interesting, perhaps even exciting, especially when “the way we do things” is continuously evolving and “the status quo is not an option”.
Co-operation and collaboration beats competition and conflict any day, making for far happier workers and workplaces, although for some organisations this remains a closely guarded secret. More dynamic environments can bring out the best in people, even if their real talents have been long dormant.
Extraordinarily, the opposite more self-centred culture built around “what’s in it for me?” and preventing rather than seeking progress does not appear to be produce a particularly healthy working environment. In every sector of society, excessively combative workplaces, whether due to particularly competitive and money-driven bosses in the private sector or heavily rules based structures in the public sector with antagonism built in to management-staff relations serve NOBODY well.
Experience suggests that both scenarios are highly counter-productive. Neither ultra-competitive, self-centred private sector bosses nor antagonistic, antiquated public sector cultures inspire people to produce their best, often quite the opposite. People do as little as they can get away with and can’t wait to go home from a working day that drags and seems to last forever. People respond best to encouragement and inclusion than discouragement and exclusion so these need to be built into “the way we do things” rather than “what’s in it for me” and sometimes “how can we get away with doing as little as possible for as much as possible?” Just like myopic private sector bosses fail to see that their intimidatory and empathy-less personalities scare employees, myopic public sector “can’t and won’t do” practices can be just as discouraging. No-one wins in such a scenario either.
What other sector of society has so many employees out on long-term sick leave and so many who have “retired on the job” well before retirement age? Something needs to be done if workers are to be re-invigorated and enthused, recipients of the services be far better and more timely served and scandals, enquiries, denials and cover-ups not continue on a far too regular basis, irrespective of which parties happen to inhabit the houses of the Oireachtas. We were proud of 1916 in 2016 but no-one should be proud of the way our “public service” is constituted, little changed from that era with barrier to progress added to barrier every subsequent decade.
These need to be dismantled not piece by piece but rather by starting from the beginning again both by prioritising the customer and working back from how best to serve them and also seeing how the most modern firms work, typified by effective and highly flexible work practices with few “levels” of management and very simple practices based not on a mantra of “can’t do” but “how can we do better?” Employees can be far happier when they see their customers so incredibly well served that they want to come back for more and highly recommend rather than criticise their “customer experience”.
In stark contrast to this long standing status quo, experience with many progressive organisations in many other sectors of commerce with a culture the total antithesis of this suggests that people can be inspired to produce their best and often do when variety, flexibility, inclusion, cooperation, harmony, open communication, praise and encouragement are part of the daily routine, centred not around how much or little the employees do but how best the customers can be served. The reason the organisation exists.
So “dreams” such as these and many, many, more are all well achievable and are commonplace in better and more dynamic organisations elsewhere. Once the will is there to turn the dreams into reality.
“It’s not my job” and “what’s in it for me?” should become “what does the customer want?” and “how can I and we do things much better?” and not be hindered in any shape or form from ensuring substantial progress is made, with those creating or maintaining barriers becoming the people justifiably ostracised, not those unfairly criticised, rebuked and even sidelined for just wanting to make their workplaces better and ultimately far healthier for everyone involved.
Every policy and practice which does not maximise the most apt, efficient and pro-active customer service should become a thing of the past as processes are vastly simplified and customers particularly notice the difference, being served by a reinvigorated workforce inspired to produce their best on a daily basis, with far more people involved in customer service roles than “administration”, no longer hiding away in offices and avoiding decisions.
One of the key business process questions will be “which of our processes would a competitor starting up today want to replicate?” All others have served their day. Indeed it could well be “the way our competitors do things” which may need to be replicated and improved instead.
But first we have to wake up from our collective slumber and smug satisfaction with a clearly unsatisfactory way of providing public services in the 21st century based on a 19th century culture of aloof unaccountability and priveliged impunity evident nowhere else in Ireland.
Once the arrogance associated with “we know better” is replaced by the humility to recognise that the culture prevalent in our (and other nation’s) public sector has failed not only the public it is tasked with serving but also its own employees.
IRELAND AS A TRULY MODERN, DEMOCRATIC AND INDEPENDENT STATE
All of these matters and many, many more need to be eradicated and, surprise, surprise, when the opposites are found to contribute to a better, more inspirational, more customer responsive and ultimately far healthier work environment for everyone involved, “continuous improvement” whereby everyone feels encouraged and included rather than excluded and discouraged will become the new “status quo” whereby those who feel inspired to “make a difference” feel there is nothing to prevent them doing so and “suggestion boxes” headed both “the status quo is not an option” and “ní neart go cur le chéile” are overflowing with visionary ideas outlining how much better the work could be performed, knowing they will be promptly actioned and no longer ignored.
In due course, the only “barriers” permitted should be those preventing a return to “the way we used do things” based on antiquated practices and policies inherited from former colonial rulers which became redundant elsewhere in society around half a century ago.
Then and only then may Ireland be regarded as a modern, democratic and truly independent State.
The alternative is not worth considering, of allowing history keep repeating itself, time and time again, enquiry after futile enquiry, cover-up after cover-up, denial after denial, no matter what the organisation or department, with casualties including trust, reputation, integrity, professionalism, truth, transparency, customer service and ultimately justice because no-one was ever responsible for any wrongdoing and nothing was ever done to prevent its recurrence.
Yet such scenarios have been well analysed ad nauseum throughout the decades in the print media and discussed in “Scannal”, “Morning Ireland”, “Today Tonight”, “Prime Time”, “Tonight”, “Breakfast” et al and look like they will continue for ever and ever being detailed by whatever these programmes evolve into because NOTHING HAS CHANGED and no-one in authority has had the vision to see what the real root cause and elephant-in-the-room is and courage to say “enough is enough”.
The only “cover-up” such programmes should be discussing in the future should be the filling in of the grave which needs to be dug to bury antiquated work practices and a discredited public sector “culture” which has so evidently failed the Irish nation and it’s people.
It really is “Question Time” for this Irish State. When cover-up is preferred to owning-up and saving women’s lives we really are at a crossroads.
The signposts seem to offer a choice between continuing down the nightmarishly familiar single-lane and low-gear bohereens of “status quo”, “no-one responsible” and “not my job” culminating in the cul-de-sac of “inconclusive enquiries” or living out dreams by choosing instead to travel down newly built, multi-lane, high speed, top gear motorways of “accountability”, “transparency”, “customer-service-first” and “first-class” service as a result of “best-practice modernity” epitomised by “reinvented workplaces” and “reinvigorated people”.
Ireland no longer needs to be spending its time filling in potholes only after (entirely predictable) accidents arise, decade after decade, no matter who is in the Dáil, leaving the beleaguered parliamentarians having to make excuses for the inexcusable and time after time erecting crash-site roadsigns entitled “deny the undeniable” and “defend the indefensible”. Yet nobody is fooled and nothing changes.
VISION, COURAGE AND INTEGRITY
With vision and courage we should rather be pre-empting and avoiding accidents by building from scratch modern, high-speed, work practices which every international organisation could be proud of and integrity at the core of all decisions by avoiding doing anything which if known may risk damaging trust or reputation, personal or organisational.
Indeed such modern organisations are already here, attracted by IDA Ireland. Why don’t we ask them how they would “do things better”?
Then do it, with no procrastination, perhaps borrowing some of their people to start the ball rolling and ensure it builds sufficient and timely momentum. People used to modern ways of doing things who could guide our public sector bodies along the right path.
Perhaps management of some of those international or indigeneous firms could invite some of our public servants to their offices and workplaces and show them “the way we do things”? “Giving something back” to the country which invited them here, employing our people and using Ireland as a base from which to provide often “leading-edge” service in the international arena. Our public servants could benefit from learning how such “state of the art” organisations work, are organised and managed and hence how different their own policies and procedures may transpire to be.
Change could be quite rapid when they realise how simplicity can be best and how a “business process” centred around service provision can actually provide BOTH better customer service and far healthier and inspirational employee welfare, especially when people are included in rather than excluded from deciding how best to service customers.
But for this to happen, the most senior senior and most conscientious decision makers in our public sector, of which there may be many, need to face facts and decide there is little alternative but to substantially rethink “the way we do things” because surely they too are dissatisfied with delays, waiting lists, underperformance, absenteeism, decision avoidance and criticism which they know to be warranted?
Surely they too are frustrated that they feel constrained from making progress and instead have to just tinker at the edges?
Surely they too believe as management they should be permitted to introduce better procedures as they see fit without undue interference?
Surely they are more familiar with the barriers to progress than anyone else and most discouraged that they can seem to be insurmountable?
Surely those who feel forced to have to “cover-up” would far rather the underlying situation was never allowed to arise in the first place?
Surely those most dissatisfied with the “status quo” are our most senior and conscientious public servants, perhaps envious of the freedom which the leadership of Irish based multinationals have in designing their own destiny? Maybe if they visited them they may be encouraged and indeed become animated by the opportunity which a modern workplace offers management, staff and ultimately customers?
Surely they do not have to wait for instruction from their political masters to change their work practices and culture?
Surely many public servants already possess the vision, courage, experience and compassion for their colleagues to want to see them more fully utilise their talents in a more co-operative environment, providing the highest level service, free of barriers to progress and unencumbered by tradition?
Surely they can take the initiative of their own volition to seek and implement best-practice and instead of having to field criticism and consider cover-up be applauded globally for they way they totally re-engineered and reinvented the way their organisations provided “public service”?
The longest journey started with a single step, perhaps picking up the phone and asking their counterpart in a modern and efficient organisation could they come and have a coffee with them? For instance, maybe people from our health service could visit some of Jimmy Sheehan’s hospitals?
Even more revealing could be their private sector counterparts visiting our public sector offices and comparing notes between the way their respective organisations do what they do. Progress and change could be quite rapid with such a natural, human, revealing and constructive starting point, especially when progressive staff at a variety of (too many) levels each get to visit each other’s offices.
We have the opportunity to transform “the way we do things” in time to genuinely celebrate the anniversary of our Independence in 2022, ensuring “equal rights and equal opportunities to all our citizens” and a renewed dedication “to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if management and staff in both our public and private sectors collaborated in improving the way our public services are delivered, especially given that any of them could well be recipients of these services? Indeed being a customer of your own service can be very revealing and so too suggestions for improvement should also be sought from customers and recipients of public services! The process may not be as complicated as it may initially seem and it may transpire that those who fear change may find their concerns were without foundation.
In 1933 at his initial inauguration as US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt opened by saying “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself” and the rest of his speech may prove to be equally appropriate to the crisis of confidence our public service as currently constituted now faces. The worst aspects of both private and public sector practices and cultures may transpire to be more alike than many may have expected and the criticisms of both prove to be equally warranted.
The status quo is NOT an option and THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DO A WRONG THING.
Before anyone else dies from either covered-up malpractice or boredom on the job, would another courageous visionary like TK Whitaker please stand up, be counted, put the people and their needs first and take responsibility for transforming “the way we do things” and in so doing “make Ireland a far, far better and fairer place to live and work”?
In some respects the challenges have little changed from those prevailing in the 1950s, observed by TK Whitaker as not being purely economic:
‘The object was to dispel despondency, to get us to realise here that there were certain things we could do if we set our minds to it.”
A return to the pre-Celtic Tiger notion of ‘ni neart go cur le cheile’ – or we are not strong until we work together – could be one of the most salutary lessons arising from the aftermath of Ireland’s period of excess.
No-one can pretend that developing, maintaining or particularly restoring trust is an easy task – whatever the arena or environment. However former US Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson provides apt guidance:
“The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is by trusting him and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust”.
The time is ripe for strong, visionary leadership, lacking self-interest and ego and with integrity and responsibility at the core of deliberations across almost all sectors of Irish society – including politicians, governing and in opposition, public servants, trade union, business, professional, media, voluntary, local and church leaders – to fully rather than partially emerge from this home-grown crisis.
Ireland’s greatest asset – it’s people – who have been treated as second class citizens far too frequently by the narrow mindedness and ineptitude of their ‘leaders’, deserve more and demand no less.
A decade ago Ireland suffered a catastrophic failure in cabinet government, public sector oversight and trust, as well as basic business, personal finance and banking common-sense. But not enough has changed during the subsequent years. This young and vibrant country, which all the evidence suggests remains an immature democracy, is now at a crossroads and faces a difficult choice.
If this choice is between the “status quo” or “evolutionary breakthrough” there really is none. We have to prioritise progress over propinquity.
Perhaps the mere 999 words below may inspire those with decision-making and law-making authority and responsibility, dissatisfied with a status quo evident for almost a century, which has resulted in far too many tribunals and enquiries without any significant progress and little real change, to introduce epoch-making cultural reform epitomised by the “spirit of meitheal”, genuine transparency, accountability and flexibility before Ireland has just reason to celebrate its own centenary of Independence as a State.
The “modern Ireland” and all its people need such a “terrible beauty” to be born, as it could and should have been in 1922. We still have the opportunity to do so by 2022 and give ourselves a genuine and plausible reason to celebrate “independence”.
Where there is a will, there is a way…
Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
Hopefully we can trust the guardians of our State not to let antiquated practices and outdated cultures beyond the gates of our soon-to-be fully-accountable public sector bodies.
By the way, I have another dream… That in the near future an employee could switch jobs between a modern multinational and any public sector organisation and hardly notice the difference.
Perhaps only when that is the “status quo” could Ireland justifiably call itself a fully democratic, truly independent and “best-in-class” Modern State?
With no more unspoken elephants-in-the-room or people hiding away in offices avoiding necessary decisions; with politicians who consistently co-operate to prioritise the long-term national interest over short-term electoral popularity; who openly and honestly explain the reasons why to the people who elect them to run their country, not their constituency; with a modern, efficient and accountable public service that ensures they do both and consistently choose to “do the right thing when no-one is looking”; with a parliamentary opposition who oppose when they disagree and be supportive when they agree; with everyone in every organisation fully accountable for their actions because they will always remember “there is no right way to do a wrong thing” and avoid all decisions and actions which may risk damaging those critically important factors – trust and reputation!
Can we do it? Yes we can!
PS Was it Kissinger who said no report should be more than a page long? So here is a one pager – a 999 emergency call for Ireland to modernise its State apparatus in a mere 999 words!
These suggestions on Public Sector Reform can be downloaded as a PDF:
All comments and critique on matters of integrity in Irish and international business and society are welcomed both to this website and to
or to Linkedin:
THE WHISTLEBLOWER’S DILEMMA
“Doing the right thing” can often be one of life’s greatest challenges, but what is the right thing to do when a person with a strong conscience becomes aware of instances when people chose to do the wrong thing, especially when this negatively impacts on others?
A dilemma has been described as “a predicament that seemingly defies a satisfactory solution”. Knowledge of a wrongdoing can put someone in a difficult position, especially if those responsible fail to rectify the situation.
The initial tendency of the culpable can often be to Cover Up rather than Own Up, resulting in a potentially catastrophic impact on interpersonal trust and organisational reputation should the wrongdoing subsequently come to light. When it does, those who chose to Cover Up may have preferred they had chosen the more courageous option of Owning Up. Considering the potential impact on Trust and Reputation before engaging in a dubious action can prevent such calamities arising.
Wim Vandekerckhove describes a whistleblower as “a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organisation that is either private or public”.
This 1999 article from Ireland’s Sunday Business Post newspaper discusses the challenges those who consider exposing wrongdoing may face. Potentially becoming vulnerable to retaliation, having their motives and loyalty challenged and private lives damaged when the Cover Up is exposed, particularly when the wrongdoers choose to diminish their prospects of reputational recovery by responding in the manner which Crisis Communication experts least recommend – “Attacking the Accuser”, can place good people in the situation of facing “the whistleblower’s dilemma”.
Weighed up against these consequences, many people of integrity nevertheless often choose what they see as the greater good associated with “doing the right thing”.
But to whom does ultimate loyalty lie?
VALUES COCKPITS – CORPORATE VALUES
Friedrich Glauner, entrepreneur and academic, tackles the critically important area of corporate cultures and how individual and corporate values can be combined and guided to produce win-win-win situations as a matter of course as an organisation interacts with both its own people and society.
The depth of personal values and integrity of an organisation’s dominant individuals contributes significantly to the prevailing level of group values and integrity, with some cultures promoting and facilitating and others hindering and prohibiting the personal integrity of their people coming to the fore. Intolerance of low values by leaders of high personal integrity ensures wrongdoing is not condoned or repeated, while the acceptance of low values by lesser leaders ensures instances are permitted and hence more likely to be repeated by the culture prevalent within their organisation.
Many authors propose that an organisation change its culture. Many advocate a return to quite noble and worthy values. Many recommend that integrity be more prevalent amongst leaders of business, organisations and indeed society. All these authors should be applauded for doing so. Society needs such people to take a critical look at “the way things are done” and recommend that we all do better. But how many authors also provide highly practical guidance how this can be achieved?
Many leaders and managers know what they should be doing but don’t know how to do it. They read about values. They know they are important. They have their own values. But they may not know how these can be inculcated in the minds of everyone who works for their organisation. Who can they turn to for guidance?
One seldom sees practical advice on HOW strong values can be automatically practiced on a daily basis by all concerned. Implementing poses a far greater challenge than advocating more virtuous behaviour. That is what makes Friedrich Glauner’s approach to this remarkable book so refreshing. Too few people plying their trade in academic circles have already also done so in industry or in commercial organisations before they switched their attention to teaching and researching in lieu of managing and leading.
The tool of the Values Cockpit developed by Friedrich Glauner has the potential to become the tool of choice for solving this practical task of aligning corporate values towards a conduct of business which will excel not only in financial terms but also result in a dynamic state of organizational excellence whereby corporate policies and practices inspire the crew and other “stakeholders” to produce their best and inculcate a culture of doing the right thing, thereby securing what Glauner calls the basis of true corporate future viability.
The next local event we are supportive of is appropriately:
BECOMING AN ETHICAL LEADER
A six-module programme during 2017 and 2018
Lismullin Conference Centre near Navan, County Meath, Ireland
40 minutes from Dublin
Module 5 is on Friday 1 June 2018
Can an organisation’s culture be changed?
This stand alone event featuring Enrique Aznar and Connor Flanagan which is being held at Lismullin on Friday 1st June is also 5th of a 6 model programme, further details below.
Having heard Enrique, with a background in Values Transformation and Corporate Governance in large well-known firms, speaking and leading such events a number of times since his first involvement in 2013, this partly case study led event is highly recommended.
Details are at:
Nearly 50 such one day events have been held since their inception in 2006. Having been involved from the outset and attended most of these, often featuring professors from leading international business schools, these highly interactive one day events have been of a consistently high ‘MBA’ standard featuring ample opportunity for discussion not only during main and breakout sessions but also at lunch and dinner, organised by their catering school!
The setting is superb with 5 star overnight accommodation for those travelling some distance and their own grounds permitting both peaceful reflection and hearty discussions with business people from many positions and sectors.
No need to travel overseas for events of this quality! Booking at +3531 676 0731.
Anyone who can resist the homemade shortbread biscuits deserves to be applauded by Oscar Wilde who appropriately remarked for an integrity related event: “I can resist everything – except temptation”. Participants are requested NOT to use a weighing scales before or after the event!! Lismullin also features a Catering School so the quality of everything culinary matches that of the business discussion and debate!
Map: http://www.lismullin.ie/contact-us/lismullin-conference-centre (Driving: M3 Exit 7 for Skryne / Johnstown; left at roundabout then left a few hundred metres later)
The next EBEN international events are:
EBEN Annual Conference 2018
Tilburg, the Netherlands
27-29 June 2018
“Reinventing Capitalism – Business Ethics and its contribution to the “Doux Commmerce“
EBEN Research Conference 2018
6-8 September 2018
“Beyond Corruption – Fraudulent Behavior in and of Corporations”
Theories on Corruption and Fraudulent Business Practices
Empirical Findings on Corporate Misbehavior
Case Studies on Corporate Scandals
Compliance and Corporate Misbehavior
Organiser: EBEN Austria in cooperation with Vienna Center for Corporate Governance & Business Ethics / University of Applied Science Vienna
Conference Venue: Palais Eschenbach, Eschenbachgasse 9/11, 1010 Vienna / Austria
Previous events we have been supportive of include:
BECOMING AN ETHICAL LEADER
A six-module programme during 2017 and 2018
Lismullin Conference Centre near Navan, County Meath, Ireland
40 minutes from Dublin
Module 4 was on Friday 9th March 2018
Character, Culture and Rules
This event featured Ricardo Calleja and Celine Maguire discussed leadership talents and the importance of character of leaders and their contribution to developing an admirable corporate culture.
Module 3 was on Friday 29 September 2017
Real leadership – Changing both hearts and minds
This event was led by Dr Richard Keegan, Manager of the Competitiveness Department at Enterprise Ireland, and an international specialist in Lean/World Class Business, Benchmarking and Sustainability, advising major companies across Europe. He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Business School at Trinity College Dublin.
Module 2 was on Friday 26 May 2017:
Are there truly ethical companies with social goals? Yes, let’s investigate one of them!
Enrique Aznar is Group Chief Values & Culture Transformation Officer with VimpelCom at their headquarters in Amsterdam. It is the world’s 6th largest mobile network operator by subscribers (214 million) with over 60,000 employees and annual revenues of $23bn, and is listed as an ADS on the New York Stock Exchange.
Module 1 was on Friday 10 March 2017:
Developing leadership in the workplace and beyond: A whole-person approach
Dr Michelle Hammond teaches organisational behaviour and work psychology at the University of Limerick, and earned her PhD at Pennsylvania State University. She has co-authored an award-winning book on leader development, published widely in academic journals, and is a registered psychologist in Ireland.
Dr Rachel Clapp-Smith has coached managers enrolled in the EMBA at Purdue University Northwest and found that coaching can benefit managers at any stage of their career.
Case study: Conor the Inspired – Making Sense of Leadership Challenges
The 30th EBEN Annual Conference Finland 14-16 June 2017 was on “Searching for Sustainability in Future Working Life”
Place: Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics, Finland
The 2017 EBEN Annual Conference took place June 14-16, at the University of Jyväskylä School of Business and Economics, JSBE (Finland), and it was preceded by a one-day workshop for doctoral students on June 13.
- The first EBEN Ireland event of 2015/16 was LEADERSHIP & DECISION-MAKING and ENTREPRENEURSHIP & VALUES held on Friday 12th JUNE 2015 in association with the Lismullin Conference Centre near Navan in Co Meath (30 minutes from Dublin City centre) in conjunction with the Lismullin Leadership Forum.
- This was the first of a series on IMPROVING YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS, A SIX-MODULE COURSE SPREAD OVER TWO YEARS:
Module 1 — Friday 12th June: Ethical leadership (Enrique Aznar)
Module 2 — Friday 25th September: Social entrepreneurship for leaders (Antonino Vaccaro)
Module 3 — Friday 20th November: Developing leaders at all levels in an organisation (Dermot Duff)
Module 4 — Friday 4th March: Dealing with difficult people and transforming them (Enrique Aznar)
Module 5 — Friday 27th May: Creating a better working environment and work-family balance (Matt Kavanagh)
Module 6 — Friday 23rd September: A leader’s framework for decision-making (Antonino Vaccaro)
Enrique Aznar led a discussion on LEADERSHIP AND DECISION-MAKING by way of a case study focusing on a company selling sophisticated electronic measuring equipment which entered the defence industry. It adopted a policy of treating military personnel generously with expenses. Later, when the Defence Department was about to cut its budget, a senior officer offered a significant project, but only in return for a hefty “commission” How should the company deal with this?
Enrique Aznar is Group Chief Compliance Officer with VimpelCom, the world’s 6th largest mobile network operator by subscribers (214 million) with over 60,000 employees and annual revenues of $23bn. It is listed as an ADS on the New York Stock Exchange.
Before joining VimpelCom, Enrique was Chief Integrity Officer with Millicom International Cellular, a telecommunications group operating in Latin America and Africa. Earlier, he was Nokia Siemens Networks’ Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, based in Finland. From 2005 to 2009 he was Deputy General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, Europe, Middle East and Africa for Tyco International. Earlier, he worked with Dell Inc, Freshfields, PwC and Arthur Andersen. A qualified lawyer in Spain, England and Wales, he earned an MA in International & Comparative Business Law in London in 1993, and completed a Business Management Programme at IESE Business School in 2002.
Brian Keegan discussed ENTREPRENEURSHIP & VALUES. Brian founded 360 Group (http://360-group.com) in London in 1998 which grew to become an international outsourcing consultancy, providing payroll, employment, immigration and compliance services to global companies engaging contract workers worldwide, with offices in London, Dublin and Bangalore. Earlier he worked in London for GAN, a French insurance company, spent a year in New York, and also a short stint in the family business in Ireland. He is the founding President of Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) Ireland, a voluntary organisation run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs with over 10,000 members globally.
Educated in Newbridge, County Kildare, he completed the Entrepreneurial Masters Programme (EMP) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is married to Kerry, who is also involved in 360 Group, and they have four children. In his spare time, he tries to keep up with his children on horseback.
- The previous EBEN Ireland event was on LEADERSHIP AND DECISION-MAKING and ETHICAL CHALLENGES IN ADVERTISING on Friday 17th April 2015 featuring Carlos Arbesú and Ed McDonald.
- Carlos Arbesú divides his time between Madrid, Santiago de Chile and Lima. He is best known as a family business specialist and has established Family Business Associations in Spain, Chile and Peru. Carlos led a Harvard Business School case study whereby a CEO grapples with leading and managing changes in strategy, governance, board composition and ownership issues as he takes a family business into the next generation.
- Ed McDonald in addition to a variety of roles in industry has been Chief Executive of both the Association of Advertisers in Ireland and the Marketing Institute of Ireland, as well as a Director of the Advertising Standards Authority. Ed led a discussion on Ethical Challenges Related to the Advertising Message and challenged whether Business Leaders should provide greater guidance?
- Prior to that TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP and ETHICAL LEADERSHIP opportunities in the area of Data Protection was on 21st November 2014. For the first time EBEN Ireland’s 2014 Conference was held at the Lismullin Conference Centre and consisted of two related events on the subject of TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP. The first on Friday 21st November was for business executives while the similar event on Saturday 22nd was for those at an earlier stage of their career or students, generally mid 20s to mid 30s.
Becoming a transformational leader Prof Dermot Duff, a specialist in Operations Management & Strategy from Trinity College Dublin Business School discussed how leaders can become ‘transformational’. People will follow a person who inspires them. By their actions and attitudes, transformational leaders show others how to behave. They motivate, enthuse, rally, listen and energise those who work with them to keep the right focus on the shared vision. Is this the kind of leader you strive to be?
Data Protection — ‘Mere’ compliance or an opportunity for ethical leadership?Hugh Jones, Cofounder and Managing Partner, Sytorus, will spend s the latter half of the afternoon session discussing how data protection offers an opportunity for ethical leadership. Data protection is about the fundamental right to privacy. Anyone can access and correct data about themselves. Those who keep data have to comply with recent legislation. Companies advertising for jobs often reject applications on the basis of a quick search of social networking sites. What should business leaders do?
Further details are provided under the Conferences section of this website.
- An international corporate integrity conference was held in Dublin – the 21st Vincentian Business Ethics Conference from 29 October – 1 November 1st 2014. The theme for ‘IVBEC 2014’ was ‘The Impact of Business Ethics on Public Life’
Normally rotated annually between three US universities – DePaul in Chicago, St Johns in New York and Niagara near Buffalo and Toronto – this was the first time this significant event was held outside the USA.
Further details are at:
It was held in the serene surroundings of All Hallows College Dublin which proved to be such a superb venue for ‘Corporate Conscience’ and ‘Church Ethics & Leadership’ which EBENI hosted in November 2013.
The question addressed then was CAN A CORPORATION HAVE A CONSCIENCE?
“It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience. But a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience.”
HENRY DAVID THOREAU 1817-1862
‘CORPORATE CONSCIENCE’ was the title of EBEN Ireland’s 2013 Conference held in Dublin at All Hallows College, Drumcondra (near Tolka Park football ground and not far from the Croke Park stadium). It was a two-day event on Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th November 2013.
EBEN Ireland also hosted an ACADEMICS ROUNDTABLE on the Wednesday evening after the main event which was open to ALL Academics throughout Ireland with an interest in ethics related matters and an opportunity to meet their senior US and European colleagues. Prof Gene Laczniak from Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA asked “What role do business schools play in shaping ethical & unethical behaviour?”
Prior to ‘CORPORATE CONSCIENCE’, on Monday 18th November EBENI and All Hallows also hosted a separate event – a ‘CHURCH ETHICS & LEADERSHIP WORKSHOP’. This featured some of the international experts from the subsequent two days as well as some key locals with a particular interest or specialism in Church Leadership with integrity to the forefront.
As well as some of our US visitors including Prof Ron Duska, immediate past President of the US Society of Business Ethics, local contributors included:
- Prof David Smith (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland),
- Dr John Murray (Mater Dei Institute of Education),
- Rev Michael Shortall (St Patrick’s College, Maynooth)
‘CORPORATE CONSCIENCE’ featured a wide variety of topics in the field of organisational and corporate integrity including whether a corporation can indeed have a conscience, the role of professionals as conscience keepers, and what Adam Smith, Aristotle and others have had to say on the matter. There were also discussions on Decision Making, Leadership, Legal Systems, fairplay in third world employment, ethical fashion, micr0-banking, poverty eradication and the role of corporations in areas such as these – real world Corporate Social Responsibility.
An exceptional range of speakers from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities addressed these and other topics including:
– Prof Niamh Brennan (Smurfit Business School / University College Dublin)
– Prof Mary Keating (Trinity College Dublin Business School)
– Prof Shane Kilcommins (University College Cork Faculty of Law)
– Dr John Considine (University College Cork Faculty of Economics & All Ireland Hurling winner!)
– John Waters (The Irish Times)
– Gabriel D’Arcy (CEO Bord na Mona / Ireland / formerly Kerry Foods & Irish Army)
– William Montgomery (CEO TEN Leadership Consultancy / UK / former Head of Strategic Change at Lloyds TSB)
– Kate Nolan & Rosie O’Reilly (Re-Dress & Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland) http://re-dress.ie/reasons-to-re-dress/
– Seán McDonagh – Climate Change
– Prof Patricia Werhane (De Paul / Chicago USA / Founder of ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’; Author of many books, most recently Obstacles to Ethical Decision-Making and Alleviating Poverty Through Profitable Partnerships which she discussed in Dublin including her “Big Questions” documentary series series for WNIT that examines sustainable poverty alleviation projects around the world notably Bangladesh, Haiti, Ghana and Tanzania.
– Prof Tobias Gossling (Tilburg School of Social & Behavioural Sciences/ Netherlands / Corporate Social Responsibility author / EBEN Board)
– Prof Bob Chandler (University of Central Florida / Orlando USA / Crisis Communications specialist)
– Graham Burke (Director EthicsPro / CPA / Ireland / Experience in Anonymous Reporting Systems)
– Prof Chris Cowton (Dean University of Huddersfield Business School / UK / Editor BEER: Business Ethics a European Review)
– Prof Björn Fasterling (EDHEC Business School / Law Professor / EBEN France)
– Prof Gene Laczniak (Marquette / Milwaukee USA / CoAuthor of ‘Marketing Ethics’)
– Prof Ron Duska (Philadelphia USA / President US Society of Business Ethics)
– Prof Scott Vitell (Mississippi USA / Marketing Specialist / CoAuthor of the ‘Hunt & Vitell’ Marketing Decisions Framework available under Decisions on this website!)
– Prof Ken Kury (St Josephs / Philadelphia USA / Family Business Professor)
For a flavour of some of the discussions, see this interesting article of the same title from Australia. Although written in the mid 1990s, what has changed since?
which opens with:
“Who keeps the conscience of a corporation? Is it the role of the Board, senior management, the whole company (or all of the above)? Can a corporation have a conscience? After all, its identity as a ‘person’ is just a legal fiction. Surely, it is only real people that might be said to have the capacity to respond to the still, quiet voice of conscience. And, even if a corporation could have a conscience, would this be a good thing? Perhaps it would be an unwarranted distraction from the prime task of creating wealth for shareholders?
These are but a few of the questions that arise, from time to time, in the field of business ethics. Others are of more immediate concern. For example, many in business ask:
- Can we afford the cost of making this product safe?
- Can we afford to admit negligence even though we know that we did the wrong thing?
- Can we afford to let the company’s accounts show the real value of our assets?
- Can we afford to refuse to carry out a client’s instructions even when, in all good conscience, we believe to follow them would harm the community?
- Can we afford to resist paying bribes in order to secure a contract in a difficult overseas market?
- Can we afford to resist taking advantage of an unintended loop-hole in the law or a contract?
Both types of question are common in the field of business ethics. Some people wish that they would go away. Their reasons vary. It may be that the questions are too difficult to answer. It may be that they trespass on areas that people try to reserve as ‘private’ or ‘personal’. Then again, explicit ethical questions may be troubling because they make the invisible foundations of a corporate culture all too visible. It’s sometime surprising to note how many people prefer uncritically to follow patterns laid down in the past. If you ask why something happens the way it does, then the answer comes back, “That’s just the way we do things around here”……..
This website will feature some of the content from Corporate Conscience in the near future.
Details of some of our prior events:
THE INAUGURAL NATIONAL GOVERNANCE, ETHICS AND COMPLIANCE FORUM was held on May 30th 2012 at Croke Park stadium, Dublin, with iQuest, ACOI, BCI, GPTW and TI.
UNLOCKING THE SECRETS OF GOOD GOVERNANCE was held on Wednesday May 30th 2012 at Croke Park stadium, Dublin, in a first ever collaboration between EBEN Ireland, iQuest, Association of Compliance Officers, Business in the Community, Great Place to Work and Transparency International.
Sessions included good governance, ethics and integrity, compliance, social responsibility, risk management, fraud and whistleblowing. Unlike DOES INTEGRITY MATTER? which featured speakers from over 30 countries, this inaugural ‘national’ forum mainly consisted of Irish speakers with a few guests from the UK and USA. It also included a variety of case studies featuring Irish based international organisations.
The previous year’s event DOES INTEGRITY MATTER? was held June 8-10 2011 at Chartered Accountants House, Pearse Street, Dublin 2. This was the annual EBEN Research Conference which was hosted by EBEN Ireland, Trinity College Dublin Business School and Chartered Accountants Ireland, who have been organising business ethics events since 2003 when they hosted BUILDING INTEGRITY IN BUSINESS at Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse.
There were 80 speakers from over 30 countries and four continents. Further details including videos of some of the sessions are at ‘Conference 2011’.
Many of the sessions are also summarised in the Conference Report available for download.
23rd LISMULLIN LEADERSHIP FORUM: Friday 20th September 2013 Ireland
On Friday 20th September 2013 EBENI Chair Julian Clarke hosted a discussion on TRUST RESTORATION at the Lismullin Leadership Forum near Navan, half an hour from Dublin.
Moscow based Enrique Aznar hosted a case study led discussion on Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling, Bernie Madoff and other ‘Smartest Guys in the Room’ involved with serious fraud as well as three mini cases on dealing with difficult people entitled “how managers, teams and corporations can drive you crazy”.
Enrique Aznar is Group Chief Compliance Officer with VimpelCom, the world’s 6th largest mobile network operator by subscribers (214 million) with over 60,000 employees and annual revenues of $23bn. It is listed as an ADS on the New York Stock Exchange. Enrique’s previous positions included Millicom International Cellular, Nokia Siemens Networks’ Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, Deputy General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer EMEA for Tyco International. Earlier, he worked with Dell Inc, Freshfields, PwC and Arthur Andersen.
We have attended most of these tri-annual events and they have been of a consistently high quality, opening up intriguing discussions between business people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Highly recommended and beats travelling to an overseas event to experience this calibre of discussion. For many of you this will be just down the road!
Anyone wishing to attend future Lismullin events can contact organiser Paul Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org or +35386 859 6052.
DOES INTEGRITY MATTER? presented an opportunity to both hear and engage with experts from all around the world and we plan to offer similar opportunities to discuss integrity related matters, across business and society. All comments, suggestions and ideas are welcome.
We can only achieve our goals if YOU participate. Ireland as a nation has suffered as a result of Leadership and Integrity failings associated with a small minority so this is a key area for discussion and improvement.
INTEGRITY can be brought to the fore both in Ireland and overseas with YOUR attendance at events, participation and ongoing support! ALL SUGGESTIONS WILL BE APPRECIATED including ideas for future events.
We are a membership based organisation and warmly welcome new members.
For those of you would like to join EBENI and support our efforts to promote integrity throughout Irish and international business and society, we would be delighted to hear from you or email us at email@example.com