Ethics officer not only need to be capacitated in term of the knowledge of the ethics framework, but also need to develop the skills/ tactics that are key in driving and implementing an effective ethics programme. Even the most experienced ethics officer’s often have to draw solutions from other sources such as nature.
Stemming from our ‘‘how to’’ programme that we facilitated in June 2015, we learnt that ethics officers not only need to be capacitated in term of the knowledge of the ethics framework, but also need to develop the skills/tactics that are key in driving and implementing an effective ethics programme. Even the most experienced ethics officers often have to draw solutions from other sources such as nature. In the programme we explored various tactics that animals use in order to hunt and survive in the wild. These are the various means of carrying out strategy or means to an end. Ethics officers aim to change and develop the organisational culture to be ethical and positive and therefore have to employ various strategies as a means to this end.
Lessons were drawn from the following animals:
- Stalking: lion stalks from cover to cover with a final burst of speed at the end.
- Positioning: find a bush close to something your prey needs - usually water - climb in and wait
From the king of the jungle, we learn that stalking and positioning is a good tactic that Ethics officers can employ in strengthening their organisational culture. Ethics officers need to have close relationships with key drivers of organisational culture. Strategically positioning yourself whether by locating the ethics office in key governance structures or by forming relationships with key personnel that influence culture. In addition, the ethics officers can utilise the informal system (totems, storytelling) in order to persuade the organisation to buy in the vision of strengthening or developing a good culture.
- Vision about five times sharper than humans
- Excellent depth perception due to the overlap
- Toes are curved and razor-sharp for catching and holding their prey
From the king of the sky, we learn that having the ability to see beyond the obvious can give an ethics officer an advantage in pursuing the totally aligned organisational culture. Ethics officers need to be strategic and have depth in terms of their thinking and clearly define their role, responsibility and have foresight so that they can anticipate changes in culture and manage it effectively. Just like in a game of chess, the ethics officer should drive the behaviour of the organisation. Once the organisational culture has reached the compliance mode, the next step should be the integrity mode then totally aligned mode and the organisation should not regress.
- Ambush hunting: snakes lie in partial concealment next to a small animal trail (found by scent) on the ground or in a tree
- Active hunting: Watch for and actively pursue their prey
- Caudal luring: Use deceptive ploys to catch prey
Snakes are built for kill and easily adapt to any environment (water, trees, land, and desert). Ethics officers need to have the ability to adapt to changes in the organisation in order to influence culture. Snakes shed their skin, ethics officer need to change their programmes, plans, strategies in order to survive and remain relevant even where there is resistance. Persuasion is key in driving ethics programme therefore ethics officers need to have the ability to build a case for ethics so that it is regarded an essential component to the organisational performance.
- Ants aren’t intimidated by the size of their workload
- Ants value teamwork
- Ants are organized
- Ants save for rainy days
- Ants get the job done
Ants may be very small but they get the job done. Ethics Officers may at times feel powerless, junior in terms of the organisational hierarchy; however need to get the job done. Through teamwork and better organisation of their functions, ethics officer need to strengthen the drivers of organisational culture continuously. Although the fruit of their labour may seem minute however, cumulatively, overtime, the consistent efforts of the ethics programme will yield results and improve culture.
Nature provides many solutions or tactics that Ethics Officers can employ in building an ethical foundation in their organisation. Survival and sustainability of the ethics programme is paramount and ethics officers need to be visionaries like eagles, position themselves like lions, adapt and persuade like snakes and work in terms like ants.
What kind of ethics officer are you? What’s your strategy?
By Phindi Twala