We’ve been hearing a lot here lately about unethical activity – to the point of scandal – that has “reached the highest levels” of the organization. It’s evident today in numerous news stories. Just how did these scandals get as far as they did within the enterprise? Where did the chain of command fail? Where did policy management and incident management go wrong? The basics of incident capture and control are very objective. You take a report on an incident and enter it into a system, where it is processed. But the system is ultimately controlled by people, people who are sometimes misguided and make unethical decisions. It’s the old scenario of the wolf watching the hen house.
What process, procedures and policies are in place to guard against fraud, cheating and malfeasance being merely swept under the rug, being dismissed as menial, or being purposefully deleted from a computer? What keeps the behavior from being exacerbated by follow-on incidents that even exceed the severity of the first wrongdoing, lies compounded by lies? Again, we see these kinds of things take place and we wonder how, with disclosure and process and ethical commitments, these things can run rampant. We chide the police when they take bribes, we raise our collective voices when the seemingly guilty go free, we shake our heads in disbelief when injustice is allowed to continue past the point where civil beings should allow it and simply know better. The truth? We’re all accountable.
Process is objective but ethics is subjective. Ultimately, it takes people to do the right thing, because no technology can be a subjective judge on ethics, to make the call loud and clear that this isn’t right, that this must stop here and be reported to another level of authority where reparations can be made, and correction, remediation, and even prosecution rendered. There is no easy fix. It’s a matter of accountability. Yes, it starts and grows with good policies and incident intake and management systems. But you also have to be wary of the wolf.