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Management Planning and Ethics

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The recent breakdown in trust resulting from the lack of character of some leaders in corporate America should cause less finger-pointing and more serious introspection. These leaders are not from outer space, here to impose some alien standard of conduct, but came from among us and as such, reflect attitudes and values that we have lazily slipped into. The tendency is to punish the "evil-doers" and move on confidently in the knowledge that the problem has been solved. Certainly there should be a punishment and one sufficient enough to give all of us pause when considering giving in to expediency, but if we are to "solve" the problem, the incentive is on us to look at ourselves and shore up our own character where we find it lacking.

It isn't a problem of an approach that backfired because it wasn't given enough time to run its course, it was that an approach was taken that was wrong. Betraying the trust of those you serve even for what is considered to be a desirable end sought by all parties involved can only hurt everyone connected to the expedient course of action taken.

The expedient course is rarely the best course and in the end it taints us. As English poet Robert Southey noted, "Never let a man imagine that he can pursue a good end by evil means, without sinning against his own soul. The evil effect on himself is certain" (

In a less stable world, a leader will rely more on inner resources than on the shifting sands of social convention. If those inner resources are not built on a solid foundation then that leader will only contribute to the problem rather than stand as a guiding beacon and provide the direction we need.

Certainly, the underlying reason for business is to make a profit, but if it can't be made honestly, then it can't be made. Expediency may lead to short-term gain but long-term success can only come from a commitment to doing what is right even when that course of action may not seem to be in our short-term best interest. The 19th century U. S. Navy oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury rightly exhorted us that "where principle is involved, be deaf to expediency" ( Failure to examine these issues in our own lives will create a pool of leaders destined to commit the same mistakes.

The leadership of Spirit Riders Motorcycle Ministry recognizes that managing ethics is a process. Ethics is a matter of values and associated behaviors. Values are discerned through the process of ongoing reflection. We understand that ethics programs may seem more process-oriented than most management practices. Managers tend to be skeptical of process-oriented activities, and instead prefer processes focused on deliverables with measurements. However, experienced managers realize that the deliverables of standard management practices (planning, organizing, motivating, controlling) are only tangible representations of very process-oriented practices. For example, the process of strategic planning is much more important than the plan produced by the process. The same is true for ethics management. Ethics programs do produce deliverables, e.g., codes, policies and procedures, budget items, meeting minutes, authorization forms, newsletters, etc. However, the most important aspect from an ethics management program is the process of reflection and dialogue that produces these deliverables.

As with any management practice, the most important outcome is behaviors preferred by the organization. The best of ethical values and intentions are relatively meaningless unless they generate fair and just behaviors in the ministry. That's why practices that generate lists of ethical values, or codes of ethics, must also generate policies, procedures and training that translate those values to appropriate behaviors.

We find that the best way to handle ethical dilemmas is to avoid their occurrence in the first place. That's why practices such as developing codes of ethics and codes of conduct are so important. Their development sensitizes team members to ethical considerations and minimizes the chances of unethical behavior occurring in the first place.

Spirit Riders Motorcycle Ministry makes ethics decisions in groups and in public, as appropriate. This usually produces better quality decisions by including diverse interests and perspectives, and increases the credibility of the decision process and outcome by reducing suspicion of unfair bias.

We have integrated ethics management with other management practices. When we developed our statement of faith during strategic planning, we included ethical values preferred in the ministry. When we developed job descriptions, we reflected on what ethical values we wanted to be most prominent in the organization's



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