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ETHICS IN CONSULTING

Ethics is not just a vague theory but a working concept that can have an important and real
effect on your consulting practice. Ethics is not simply a matter of obeying the law; it goes
much beyond this. You will also see that the ethical problem is not simple, and yet it is one
you will face frequently during your work as a consultant.
Ethics defined
Ethics are about moral evaluations of decisions as to whether they are right or wrong on the
basis of socially/culturally accepted principles of behaviour. Ethics are moral principles that
define appropriate behaviour.
The most basic and common ethical issues have been formalised through laws and
regulations to ensure conformity to the standards of society. At the most basic level,
practitioners are expected to conform to these laws and regulations. However, it is important to
realise that ethics go beyond legal issues.
Organisations need to operate in accordance with sound moral principles based on ideals
such as fairness, justice, and trust. Clients will generally regard unethical marketing
activities as unacceptable and often refuse to do business with practitioners who engage in
such practices.
Thus when practitioners deviate from accepted moral principles to further their own
interests at the expense of others, continued exchanges become difficult, if not impossible.
Good ethical decisions make good business sense as they foster mutual trust between the
organisation and its clients (as well as other stakeholders) and build good relationships.
When an organisation engages in unethical business activities, it may not only lose sales as
dissatisfied clients refuse to deal with it, but it may also face lawsuits, fines, and even
prison for its executives.
Regardless of how a person or an organisation views the acceptability of a particular
activity, if society judges that activity to be wrong or unethical, then this view directly
affects the organisations ability to achieve its goals. Although not all activities seen as
unethical by society may be illegal, clients may see it as unethical. Their protests against a
particular activity may result in legislation that restricts or bans it.
Ethics are individually understood and vary from one person to another. Although individual
practitioners often work within their own concepts of ethical standards, there needs to be
shared standards of acceptable behaviour to guide all business decisions.
BUSINESS ETHICS ARE NOT ALWAYS CLEAR-CUT
If ethical questions could be expressed in clear terms of black or white, decisions on
corporate conduct would be easy. But that is seldom the case.
TYPICAL PROBLEMS OF ETHICS IN CONSULTING
1. Client already knows the answer he wants to his problem.
2. Client wants you to omit information from your written report.
3. Client wants proprietary information that you learned while employed with someone
else.
4. Client wants you to lie to his boss.
5. You are a head hunter and a member of a clients firm wants you to recruit him.
6. Client wants you to bill for greater or lesser than the actual amount.
Policies and Standards (Codes) of Ethical Behaviour
It is difficult for employees to determine what is acceptable behaviour within an organisation
if the organisation does not have policies and standards of conduct. Without policies and
standards of behaviour, employees will make decisions based on their understanding of how
their peers and managers behave.
Codes of ethics are formalised rules and standards that describe what the company expects of
its employees. Codes of ethics encourage ethical behaviour by eliminating opportunities for
unethical behaviour: the companys employees know both what is expected of them and
what the punishment is for violating the rules. Codes of ethics also help marketers deal
with ethical issues or dilemmas that develop in daily operations by prescribing or limiting
certain activities. The codes of ethics do not have to be so detailed that they take into
account every situation, but they should provide general guidelines for achieving
organisational goals and objectives in a morally acceptable manner. Top management also
should provide leadership and guidelines in implementing the codes.
Acting Professionally
a professional is a person expert in their field of activity, who holds the ideal of service to others (community, client
and profession) before their own interests, bringing to bear in this service the wider values of.
v The acceptance of the greater good having regard for things more important than making money
v Competence
v Discretion
v Adherence to Professional Rules
v Impartiality
v Responsibility
v Integrity and Fairness
v Ethical Conduct
Key Factors of Professional Practise
Perhaps the most useful elements in defining what a professional should be comes in the following list:
1. Intellectual basis.
2. Private practise focus.
3. Advisory function.
4. Tradition of service.
5. Advisory services
6. Representative institute.
7. Code of conduct.
The list is developed as follows:
1. Intellectual basis
An intellectual discipline, capable of formulation on theoretical, if not academic, lines, requiring a good educational
background, and tested by examination.
2. Private practise focus
A foundation in private practise, so that the essential expertise and standards of the profession derive from meeting
the needs of individual clients on a person-to-person basis, with remuneration by fees from individual clients rather
than a salary or stipend from one source.
3. Advisory function
An advisory function, often coupled with an executive function in carrying out what has been advised or doing
ancillary work such as supervising, negotiating or managing; in the exercise of both functions full responsibility is
taken by the person exercising them.
4. Tradition of service
An outlook which is essentially objective and disinterested, where the motive of making money is subordinated to
serving the client in a manner not inconsistent with the public good.
5. Advisory services
Advisory services (including concomitant executive functions) on matters requiring expert intellectual knowledge
and concerning the physical or mental health of an individual, or the protection or advancement of the rights or
property of an individual or body corporate, are best provided by a private practitioner whose competence and
integrity are vouched for by an independent body representative of such practitioners.
6. Representative institute.
One or more societies or institutes rep- resenting members of the profession, particularly those in private practise,
and having the function of safeguarding and developing the expertise and standards of the profession.
7. Code of conduct.
A code of professional ethics laid down and enforced by the professional institute or institutes.
These seven characteristics, taken together, identify a group of vocations or callings essentially different from others
and of particular value and importance to the community, which we may call the consultant professions. This is not
to say that other callings are of less worth; only that they are different in nature. Since these excluded callings
comprise those, for example, of the senior civil servant, the artist, author or composer, the business executive and
the pure scientist it is obvious that no slur is intended by their exclusion.
MAXIMS FOR SUCCESS
Risk. Never be afraid to take risks. If you work for someone, that is part of what you are
getting paid for. If you work for yourself, it is the only way you can become successful.
Responsibility. If you are assigned a task, you are responsible for its successful completion.
There are no acceptable excuses for failing to fulfill this responsibility, and the responsibil ity
cannot be shifted to others.
Self-Confidence. Self-confidence comes from successfully completing increasingly difficult
tasks and assignments. Give your maximum to every project, no matter how insignificant
or formidable.
Leadership. A leader accepts responsibility. This means that the welfare of those that you
lead must always come before your own well-being. Therefore, while your primary duty is
the accomplishment of your organisations mission, the welfare of your subordinates comes
second, and your own welfare last.
Success. Success does not come from working hard. Success comes from playing hard.
Therefore, if you want success, you must position yourself so that the duties that you
perform, no matter how difficult or challenging, are considered play to you and not work. If
you do this, not only will you gain success, but you will have fun doing it.
Compensation. Compensation, whether in the form of profit, salary, or job satisfaction, is the
by-product of your contribution to society and is in direct proportion to this contribution. It
is an error to make compensation the focus of your lifes work. You will not reach your full
potential, and you will have cheated society of the full benefit of your talent and ability.
Individual Ability. Every individual has the potential to do great things. To reach this
potential it is necessary to discover your special abilities and qualifications. This means that
you should always attempt new tasks and accept responsibility for untried assignments
whenever they are offered.
Duty. Whatever your occupation, you have a duty to the society of which you are a
member. If you are a soldier, your duty is to protect that society. If you are in business or
industry, your duty is to create and manage the jobs, wealth, and products of that society.
Therefore, failure will be harmful not only to you, but also to society, just as success will be
beneficial not only to you, but also to society.
Planning. Successful actions are not results of accidents or luck, but rather of an analysis of
the situation and the preparation and proper execution of plans. Because of a changing
environment and other variables, plans will not always succeed as originally conceived. But
planning will maximize your successes and minimize your failures.
MAANZ International has a new course Developing a Professional Practise, which can either be
taken as an individual subject or part of an Executive Diploma Program. It is an excellent
subject consisting of 10 modules (notes and PowerPoint slides) specifically created for
Professional and/or Specialist Consultants. A certificate is issued on completion.