Ethics – Its Impact on the Engineering Profession

Ethics Impact on Engineering Profession

Ethics – Section 1

Building itself depends on the improvement of current life, regardless of whether as far as innovation or effectiveness or accessibility with less budgetary endeavors. The way toward building releases you through a progression of various trials with regards to reasonable use. In spite of the fact that it isn’t care for a trial in research center under controlled conditions, which is done while learning, a designer ought to be prepared to do likewise on a social scale including human subjects.  This article explores the impact that ethics has on the profession of engineering. Check out our article on ethical issues facing engineers.

Experimentation is the fundamental part of planning process. An architect who is should plan the pieces of a vehicle, will have the option to comprehend the outcome just when it is tried for all intents and purposes. Primer reproductions are directed now and again to know how the new idea of building acts in its first harsh plan. Materials and procedures are given it a shot, more often than not utilizing formal test strategies. Such tests fill in as a premise, which help in building up the last item.

Architects as Experimenters

During the time spent building up an item, a specialist for the most part learns through experimentation. To basically, an experimentation technique is the for the most part utilized one to acquire results, yet that goes with certain counts. Thus, we can say that, fundamentally any test is done with incomplete obliviousness. Indeed, even the results of the analyses may not be true to form. An architect ought to consistently be prepared for the sudden yield. The improvement of current model will prompt some change which might be productive.

The tests made are generally exposed to dangers however the undertaking is little. Numerous vulnerabilities are probably going to happen contingent on the progressions that may happen in the modified model or materials bought. On occasion, when the materials were exposed to proceeded with anxiety, or some procedure, it may happen that the idea of the substance changes which may prompt some devastation. These are the regions of trial where nothing is extremely unsurprising.

Obligation in Experimentation

In spite of the fact that the analyses and the outcomes are unsure, there are not many things which an architect is should remember. Consider the accompanying focuses which are identified with the ethical parts of human conduct −

  • To keep up the wellbeing of individuals.
  • To obtain their privileges of assent.
  • To keep them mindful with respect to the test idea of the undertaking.
  • To caution them about the plausible wellbeing dangers.
  • Should screen the consequences of the trial consistently.
  • Having self-sufficiency in directing analyses.
  • Tolerating responsibility for the consequences of the undertaking.
  • Showing their specialized capability and different attributes of demonstrable skill.


The morals that an architect ought to adhere to relies on the ethical benchmarks of the person. Good faith suggests cognizance which means the feeling of mindfulness. Each architect is required to have some ethical gauges regardless of the job he is performing.

The present workplace of specialists, slender down their ethical vision completely with the commitments went with the status of the representative. Be that as it may, this may overstep the ethical laws. Alongside fulfilling the business’ objectives, by carrying on as a capable representative, by not doing any extortion, not breaking privacy and damaging patent rights and so on., a specialist ought to be cognizant about the unforeseen. Unfavorable result may come up as unforeseen aftereffect of their investigations; for this, they are responsible to the general population.

Educated Consent

As a capable architect, one ought to be educated regarding the realities in order to be cognizant. The built results of the organization ought to be so that they can never be utilized to play out any unlawful or unsocial exercises, which causes obliteration.

It is to be seen that if an organization creates a few items that are out of design or the things which advance wastage of vitality and don’t get in advantages, such things are to be all around disclosed to the business and elective arrangements ought to likewise be recommended by the specialists.

Moral Autonomy

Any individual can be ethically self-sufficient just when one is being certifiable in one’s responsibility towards virtues. Moral convictions and demeanors must be incorporated into a person’s character which prompts a submitted activity.

The obligation to answer a surprising outcome, impacts an architect to include himself by and by into the work. This prompts moral self-rule wherein, he likewise gains the trust of the business, through his responsibility. Such dependable activities lead to extraordinary results.


Responsibility can be comprehended as the ethical duty that we have towards our activities. It implies a propensity to be eager to straightforwardly acknowledge the ethical assessments towards one’s activities and being receptive to the evaluation of others. The hole between easygoing obligation and good responsibility is normal in any calling, alongside designing.

Give us now a chance to consider the accompanying occasions to comprehend responsibility −

At the point when a gathering of people are associated with the fulfillment of a venture, at that point the responsibility alludes to the gathering limiting the odds of acknowledgment of good obligation towards a particular activity, where every individual makes just a little commitment to something a lot bigger.

The responsibility is diffused inside the association and one needs to acknowledge it. Both credit and disappointment should be considered for responsibility where the work is diffused and the territories of individual responsibility are delimited inside the association.

Now and again, when the specialists are pressurized to move to another venture while the current is as yet in progress, at that point the responsibility is restricted distinctly for gathering plans.

There is constantly an ethical contribution past the set down institutional job, where the specialists can’t separate themselves from individual obligations of their work.

Codes of Ethics

The specialists who are spoken to as experts, and who have a place with an expert society need to have some ethical duties. A set of principles is significant for specialists to stay focused on their reality.

Codes of Ethics

The building social orders, for example, AAES, ABET, NSPE, IEEE and AICTE have surrounded these codes of morals which are useful to designers to reinforce the ethical issues on their work. The codes of morals play at any rate eight significant jobs, for example, the accompanying −

Serving and ensuring the open − Engineers are in a capable position where trust and dependability, both are fundamental. A code of morals works as a dedication by the calling all in all that architects will serve the general wellbeing, security and welfare.

Direction − Codes are written in a word yet demonstrate successful in offering general direction to the specialists. Increasingly explicit bearings might be given in valuable articulations or rules, which advise how to apply the code. If necessary, the help is gotten for further determination.

Motivation − Codes of morals, which determine an aggregate duty towards a calling, help in persuading the architects towards moral lead. As a matter of fact, these codes make one feel extremely capable and glad to be an expert consequently persuading towards the responsibility one ought to have towards one’s calling.

Common Standards − The models set up ought to be material to all people, in their specific callings. With the codes of morals, the open is guaranteed of designers with least standard of greatness and the experts are given a reasonable method to contend.

Backing for Responsible Professionals − The experts who act morally have progressively positive help through these codes. An expert architect who has the expectation to remain by the codes of morals, can have no mischief from shameless expert commitments, as he can dismiss easily yet officially. Also, these codes can give legitimate help to architects condemned for satisfying business related proficient commitments.

Training and Mutual comprehension − The codes which are generally flowed and formally endorsed by expert social orders, advance a common comprehension among experts, people in general and government associations about the ethical obligations of architects. These codes brief discourse and reflection on good issues.

Prevention and Discipline − The experts who neglect to pursue the codes show dishonest direct, which is apparent from the noncompliance towards their calling. Such an examination for the most part requires paralegal procedures intended to get at reality with regards to a given charge without disregarding the individual privileges of those being explored. This may prompt ejection of those whose expert direct has been demonstrated untrustworthy, which additionally prompts loss of regard from associates and the neighborhood network.

Adding to the Profession’s Image − Codes venture the designers as the experts of morally dedicated calling, which motivates them to work with incredible responsibility and all the more adequately to serve general society. It can likewise win more prominent forces of self-guideline for the calling itself, while diminishing the interest for greater government guideline.

Points of interest of Codes of Ethics

Give us now a chance to see the accompanying points of interest of codes of morals. The codes

  1. Set out the standards and duties of the calling.
  2. Apply a true administrative impact ensuring the two customers and experts.
  3. Improve the profile of the calling.
  4. Rouse and move professionals, by endeavoring to characterize their raison d’etre.
  5. Give direction on adequate lead.
  6. Bring issues to light and cognizance of issues.
  7. Improve quality and consistency.


Ethics and Professional Engineering

Cannon of Ethics

Overview of Professional Engineering and Ethics

Ethics are important in every field and so are they in the field of engineering. Engineering ethics are guidelines to be followed by the engineers for the betterment of their profession as well as the world. These rules are decided by the National society of professional engineers (NSPE) . They very strictly emphasize on the point, that professional conduct for engineers should be based solely on protecting the safety, health and property for the well being of society.

If according to their judgement, any of this is somehow in danger, they should quickly notify their client or the authority that is responsible. These professional ethics are greatly influenced in this field despite the type of engineering.

Canon of EthicsNSPE Canon of Ethics

  1. Be it electrical, civil, biomedical or chemical engineering according to the ethics the foremost duty of all these engineers is to look upon the problem and identify the state of that ethical engineering problem.
  2. The next step is to find the facts that relate to that problem i.e. the different moral viewpoints
  3. Identifying the pros and cons of the ethical problem and searching for a new solution
  4. Coming up with a new course of action and qualifying for it.

Engineers are responsible for inventing for the future, which surely means that it will affect the lives of millions of people. Talking about the biomedical engineering, if an engineer develops an artificial kidney and wants to check whether it will work or not , it has to be tested on a human sample.

Check out this video on Professional Ethics in Engineering – Great Overview

Research Summary

In this research the human that is being tested might either die or become well. If he dies it will be non ethical but by using the above points the engineer can monitor the code of conduct and also create something that will save millions of lives. Over confidence and negligence can always be the culprit which can harm these ethics in professional engineering.

So, an engineer should check his work at least twice to verify that it does not overlook the ethical law in excitement of his new invention. Engineers are responsible for so many developments which makes this profession a multidisciplinary one. If they ignore the safety and security of the society it can have harmful consequences that they might haven’t even anticipated.

Honesty and integrity is the first part of every job ,if a person is not honest with their job that means that they are not likely to be called as professionals. Same is the case with engineering, where so many lives are relying and dependent upon the services being provided by them.

Conclusion – Remain Up to Date

Another very important point to ponder upon is to keeping up to date. An engineer should be aware of the new and latest developments and also guide others about them. Keeping their knowledge and skills up to date with the current world will lead to a better future that they can give to the people.

Hence, ethics in professional engineering is something which can not be ignored at any cost and it is the first and foremost duty of an engineer to think about the safety, health and well being of the society.

What is Ethics Management?

Definition of Ethics Managementethics management

Ethics Management, when done correctly, is a comprehensive program that continuously improves underlying ethics processes (thinking and behavior patterns), not just some high visibility issues and ethics policies.  Many organizations spend enormous sums on training and quality improvement initiatives from TQM and ISO-9000  to Six Sigma, along with countless other programs as well, without ever addressing the leading constraints to quality or performance improvement, which are ethics failures within the operating culture.

After the easy fruit is gleaned from a new technology or process, all that is left to improve is the people themselves.  But people are more than just a collection of skills and capabilities.  People are also a “people system” with a process capability of their own.  This people system is also referred to as the social system or the organizational culture of the firm.  This culture normally is so powerful that it ultimately has more impact than management regarding what, where, and when things get improved.  Hence the key to significant improvement has been and always will be the supportive capability of the culture to manage the improvement. This culture component has a unique relationship to ethics.  It not only benefits from ethics management, but is utterly dependent on it!

Some Specificsethicists

Ethics management, when approached in a quality manner, identifies the ethics needs before training or policy adjustments ever begin. The arbitrary imposition of an ethics policy without regard to the specific ethic’s needs of the organization is considered by many ethicists and social scientists as a very low probability strategy for improving ethics or preventing poor ethics.  Business organizations must go beyond ethics policies and embrace real ethics management at the organizational level, using professional management methodologies, to have any reasonable expectation of improving ethical behavior. Just about anywhere one goes one will find most ethics policies are at best jokes among the employees, and at worst trip wires – or pretexts to shoulder blame. This is generally the result of such an arbitrary approach.

Ethics Management, when done right, accomplishes more than just improving ethical behavior on some issues.  Ethics management addresses the underlying root causes of unethical behavior.  Since things that cause unethical behavior also constrain organizational performance, solving internal ethical issues directly benefits operating performance as well.  Ethics, utility and successful human interaction are closely interrelated.  In fact they are so closely interrelated it may be impossible to consider either one in isolation of the other two. Therefore, in order for any of these factors to improve, they must all improve, and if any do not improve, chances are neither really improved.

How Can You Implement Ethics Management

A common sense question could be asked: “Is it possible to improve ethical behavior and not improve utility and successful human interaction?”  The answer is: “Maybe, but not likely.”  There are instances where there may be an ethical imperative, such as obeying the law, that appears to constrain both utility and the needs of the group.  However, when looked at more closely, unless it is clearly a bad or unjust law, it can be argued that the law protects and prevents social failures, for society at large and for the group, hence the group itself is better off following the law.  Perhaps, in limited cases, in the short run, and without regard to an ongoing social system, this question can be argued successfully at the metaphysical level by highly trained philosophers.  But because most business ethics issues arise in an ongoing social system, it is highly probable that any improvement in ethics will positively affect utility and successful human interaction as well. Therefore, in managing business ethics, the odds bet will be “against” this question.  United (with utility and successful human interaction) -ethics stands- divided it falls.

Our Ethics Quality approach to ethics management seeks to prevent ethical failures by addressing their root causes.  The causes of ethical failures typically are not isolated events (or special causes) as most ethics policies would label them.  Instead they generally are systematic (common cause) failures that arise from patterns of reasoning and behavior that are embedded in individual and organizational routines.  And since operating culture patterns are significantly more powerful and more influential than individual values, the best logical way to permanently fix unethical reasoning is to address it at the operating culture level first, and at the individual level second.  This should be the objective of ethics management.


Our Ethics Quality approach uses diagnostics to identify the strengths and weaknesses in the organization’s ethics system and directs training and corrective action resources precisely to those areas where the needs are the greatest.  By focusing on the organizations needs, and not just on a policy, ethics management removes constraints to performance, creates a more supportive operating culture, and reduces risks of large scale ethics failures in the process.

Why resistance is important

What Can You DoSocietal resistance

Despite my being a supporter of marriage equality, it is vitally important in the long run for there to be resistance to it. I would say that for any social change issue, we need to rethink our tolerance for resistance, because it is in the resistance itself that real change happens.

A number of years ago I was living in Queensland when Pauline Hanson made her famous debut on the political stage. It was a remarkable time to be there. I remember how friends, almost overnight, started to express what was to me the most vile racism. I was shocked by not only what was said but the fact that people I knew, really good people, were all of a sudden speaking in such fearful and hurtful ways

Senator Pauline HansonWhat Pauline Hanson did was dredge up and fuel dormant racism. She exposed a part of Australia’s social consciousness and collective karmic psyche that was to me repulsive. Despite my judgements of it at the time, the fact of the matter is that it was there and it needed to be dealt with.
Of course along with bringing to the surface this previously unacknowledged fear within the society, it also brought to the surface those people and ideas that were pursuing the opposite. I remember 40,000 people showing up for a Reconciliation March in Brisbane, an attendance and purpose that would have been unimaginable only a couple of years earlier. It was an exciting time in Australia actually, because there was such an increase  in civic activity, social consciousness and the dissolving of outdated views.

Change Agents

Social change requires both the dark and the light.

Despite the discomfort at the time, and the pain that was caused to people through her words and the communities actions, it was all necessary for the social change process. In the end Pauline Hanson lost nor did her party survive. On the contrary, Australia was able to face up to the darker aspects of its culture. In looking back on it now though, it was necessary. And to perhaps go one step further (or at risk too far), Pauline Hanson was an important figure in Australian changemaking.

A more recent issue that has divided views is that of marriage equality. The last four years have been incredible in terms of the amount of legislation change that has affected people who identify as same sex attracted. The Government has changed a lot of laws affecting this part of the community, yet a lot of it went unrecognized by the mainstream media or society.
It has been the issue of marriage that has evoked such fierce resistance. There are a bunch of reasons for this including political, personal and religious, but that is not my focus here. What I do suggest is that this resistance is the most crucial aspect in this change journey. If same-sex marriage was legislated without resistance, homophobia could potentially lay dormant, unexamined and potentially grow further.

You cannot bring darkness into a lighted room, but bring light into darkness and the darkness will no longer exist. So if resistance is important, how do we deal with it?

What Do Others Think

I wrote a piece on the Gacaca process and how forgiveness went viral in Rwanda. This process has been a classic example of how a community can have the courage to face up to the darker aspects of its culture or history, without it needing to be a battle between light and dark. One of the beautiful things that Gacaca recognizes is that the real change is not about righting wrongs, but about rewriting stories.

The genocide in Rwanda was not simply a 100-day event in 1994. This cultural story of difference and misuse of power was embedded deep in the psyche of that country since the colonial powers divided the country by ethnicity in the 19th century. Many attempts had been made to correct these karmic wounds over that time, but none of them worked. This was because they denied the significance of facing the internal dimensions of the problems. Real change required the courage and compassion to face the deep cultural wounds
So what can Australia or other nations learn from Rwanda?Most importantly, we need to recognize that change operates on many levels, the least of which being legislative. Many of the ‘outer’ or tangible challenges we witness are driven by unresolved and unexamined cultural, karmic and outdated thinking.
Change must be both internal and external. I would suggest that without the internal change (personal beliefs and cultural stories), external change will never work or be sustainable. On the other hand, if you change the internal, this cannot help but flow through to external change. As above, so below.

My Best Ideas

As changemakers, we need to be able to stand in the face of resistance with compassion and courage. It is how the forces of light and dark meet that will actually create the change.

So to resistance, I say bring it on!

Systems diplomacy: is this the end of social entrepreneurship?

IntroductionSystems diplomacy

Last week I wrote a short post titled Now Hiring: Systems Diplomats and had a most surprising reaction. My niche little blog with its humble readership suddenly swelled, at least momentarily. There was something in this post that seemed to resonate for people very strongly.

It might have been not much more than the first two words “Now Hiring” which gave the reader some false hope that in this post was an intriguing new job available, only to realize that it was a fake ad. But the comments and feedback I received on twitter showed something more.

Some Context

Firstly, to be clear, the meme explored in this post or even the name is not original. I first came across this about a year ago in conversation with a friend, colleague and fellow knowmad @edwardharran. At the time we used the term Ecosystems Diplomat. Eddie subsequently chatted with @katemural who wrote a stellar post on ecosystems diplomacy. Kate also explored the idea of a kind of Ecosystems Diplomacy Corp. While I have been mostly unaware until recently, there have been others exploring these meme from different angles all over the world, blending it with other memes like open space technology and collective impact.

The collective impact meme was made publicly known and accessible by the team at FSG who have diligently mapped a bunch of collective impact initiatives, and created a framework for how these work. While systems diplomacy is not limited to multi-institutional collaboration, there is definite correlation with the qualities required to facilitate collective impact projects. FSG have focused very heavily on the importance and contribution of backbone organisations in these processes. Systems diplomacy can shed some light on the qualities and approaches of the people who are doing this work.

What Happened

However one talks about this emerging field, the collective consciousness is clearly picking up on the need for and designing a new kind of change making. There is a remarkable convergence around these memes, how they are developing and being discussed.

For me the job post and it’s descriptions were not plucked from thin air. Systems diplomacy is now a core part of my work, along with a bunch of colleagues in Australia and across the world. When I wrote about the role of systems diplomat I was conjuring up stories, observations and insights gathered from this collective experience. Some of it comes from hearing the qualities that are required, while others are what I perceive as needed responses to the challenges that are often faced by people engaged in systems diplomacy.

We are living in the era of Social Entrepreneur as King (or Queen), and the world seems obsessed with the individual and institution as the most eloquent force for change. In this light, collective and systems change may seem quite a leap to some. Of course given my pedigree, I am not going to jump to dismissing social entrepreneurship as redundant or on the ‘way out’. On the contrary, I suspect that it will keep growing and morphing. Indeed many changemakers I know who have started out with an entrepreneurial approach have blended systems diplomacy with their work as they know they cannot achieve change without tackling challenges associated with the systems.
Notwithstanding this morphing and blending, there are some clear distinctions between social entrepreneurship and systems diplomacy. For one, entrepreneurship usually denotes a quality of institution building as opposed to systems building. A colleague and serial social entrepreneur @JanOwenAM has been working on systems change for many years. While Jan may not use the term systems diplomacy to describe her approach, she strives for many of the qualities I perceive are required. What more, Jan is a strong advocate for using institutions as a foundation for creating systems change – the institution is the vehicle through which innovation can occur to change a system.
This philosophy resonates with the work of Ashoka who have been tirelessly promoting the idea that social entrepreneurs change systems. Indeed, Ashoka and organizations like Echoing Green and the School for Social Entrepreneurs have some powerful examples of how that has worked. So perhaps systems diplomacy is growing out of the social entrepreneurship movement as much as being a new force.

Regardless of its origin and lineage, I perceive some distinct differences between the entrepreneurial and systems approaches. While the two approaches to changemaking may be compatible and interdependent, the approach of the systems diplomat is distinct in a few ways.
The first is that which I have already mentioned – systems diplomats work with institutions but they do not represent particular institutions. From personal experience as a social entrepreneur, I find that within a short time of building an institution your role as Director or CEO is to ensure its survival, growth and perpetuity. While you may start with an intention to change a system, you invariably end up serving the institution ahead of the system in the SocEnt Hierarchy of Needs. I don’t suggest this as a criticism, it is just a reality.

The second is this idea of independence – real and perceived. Independence from the constrains of meeting the needs of the institution is important, but also independence in thinking. The systems diplomat needs to be able to hear multiple views and not accepts them as truth. Maintaining a level of clarity and detachment in thinking is critical. As the saying goes …if you want truth to stand clearly before you, do not be for or against anything (Buddhist Zen Master Sent-ts’an).

Are We Independent

Perceived independence is also important in building trust. Facilitating a more collaborative system will not immediately dissolve competition. Players in any system may hold multiple roles and relationships with each other including competitor, collaborator, funder, supplier, client or others. Entering a collaborative approach does not dissolve existing power differentials. Each role and relationship has different power dynamics that need to be understood and navigated. If these players perceive a lack of independence or having bias, this may impact the effectiveness of the diplomat.

While I am yet to do any particular research around the area of personality and motivation, I suspect that there are also strong differences between those who would take an institution building approach from a systems diplomacy approach. The types of people who are drawn to building institutions will not necessarily be drawn to systems diplomacy and vice versa.

I have written and spoken on the need for systems diplomats to posses humility and not make themselves the focus. While entrepreneurship is often falsely equated with Ego, I dismiss this idea (click here to read more on my thoughts about Ego and entrepreneurship). I perceive that Ego can become a trap in almost any field, including potentially systems diplomacy. In social entrepreneurship it is not so much the institution approach that feeds the Ego, rather it is fed by the recognition and elevation of the individual as cause of change by both the individuals themselves and the collective. If a systems diplomat believes that they are the one creating the change, then they too could fall into this trap.

My Thoughts

As you can see this field is still so emergent, that the research and understanding needed around it is considerable. I am really interested in hearing from people out there who are working in this field to help capture some collective learning around systems diplomacy. Please leave a comment or blog about this yourself – happy to link to your stuff. Or get in touch as I would love to have a conversation.

Speaking truth to power

What is Our ResponsibilitySpeak Truth to Power

Over the past few years I have worked with and met a number of social entrepreneurs. I have been struck by how many have come into the work that they do through perceiving injustice, inequity or inefficiency elsewhere. Most social entrepreneurs I know are not new to ‘doing good’ – it is in their blood. For many they have committed their lives and been working for years trying different approaches to creating change or making a better world.

A striking number have recounted to me experiences they have had in previous jobs at non-profit organizations or the corporate sector where they perceived a genuine problem. The problems people have shared have been very diverse, including misaligned strategy, poor spending, workplace bullying, mismanagement, ego-based leadership and perhaps most alarmingly, an unwillingness to listen to contrary or negative feedback. Sometimes these problems create harmful organizations or programs, and other times just keep the organization in a place of mediocrity; locked away from fully achieving greatness or their mission.

Many social entrepreneurs I have come across have actually first attempted to create change, innovate or establish new initiatives within these existing organizations. They have often experienced the resistance that comes from a system trying to protect itself, and not allowing new information to come in. Many have also experienced not being heard when trying to express counter views or challenge authority when they witness unethical behavior in leadership.

I could not even count how many people I know who have felt that they have had no other option than to leave the organization as they have been unable to create change there. In some cases, their departure has not been their choice. The information and perceptions they have had and were unable to share would have potentially saved the organizations they worked for a great deal of money, their brand and created a more aligned strategy. If they could somehow speak truth to power, their experience and the impact of the organization could have been changed.

For me, one of the reasons that people find themselves in this position is because they lack the skills and confidence to deal with and speak to power. By ‘…power’ I refer most often to people in positions of authoritative power (Board Directors, CEO’s, management), and by ‘speaking truth to…’ I mean the ability to give feedback and name what the individual perceives as going on.

I do not write this with any judgement or criticism, I write simply as an observation. I too have been in positions where I have felt unheard or unable to speak effectively ‘my truth’ to people in more senior roles to me. I have also experienced being in positions of authority (CEO, senior management, Board Director) and probably caused pain for people in terms of them not feeling like they could voice certain views with me.

Understanding power, resolving ones relationship with it and being able to work effectively with power is bloody difficult. This is not an easy journey at all. The reason many people find it difficult or lack the confidence is that they have been burnt in their past (earlier life or past-life) by the misuse of power by others. The consequences can sometimes be incredibly painful, and it is totally understandable that people avoid situations where they would need to experience it again.

I have one friend who was until recently the CEO of a major charity. This charity was significant in size, budget and reputation, and had a number of challenges including unethical and misaligned leadership at the Board. This behavior and practice was not obvious to everyone, but certainly a strong number of staff and the community had expressed their being disenfranchised with the organization’s governance. The CEO had a choice of whether to speak against it, or play along with their power games and behavior. She chose to speak against it, which was an enormously courageous act. The consequence was that she was forced to step down from her post, representing a significant loss to the organization and her personally. Positive results did come out of it too, including the Board being forced to look at the way it governed. The courage of this CEO to speak truth to power led to a startling turnaround for that organization.

For me the single most striking problem in the ‘doing good’ or non-profit world is our understanding of and ability to deal with power. So much importance is placed on entrepreneurship, innovation and creating new change. Our ability, willingness and courage to shift existing organizations or initiatives to more ethical, aligned and positively impactful positions is critical. Otherwise we find ourselves in the position whereby creating new good only perpetuates the existing bad. We are not actually transforming that which is at worst harmful or otherwise just mediocre, into that which may be great.

A wise colleague of mine Beth Worrall champions the role of entrepreneurs within existing organizations or systems. Beth taught me a lot about the important role that individual employees within larger systems can play. When these employees work effectively with power, their impact internally and externally can be huge – even from the most ‘junior’ roles.

Whether we are committed to sticking out the journey in our existing workplaces or moving into new ventures, our willingness and ability to work with power is critical. Perhaps I will come back to this in a later post, but it starts with first seeking to understand ourselves and our own current relationships with power. This is challenging and can surface stuff about ourselves that we perhaps don’t want to face. I know for me that journey has been difficult, but one that hopefully in the end will bring me closer to being a better change maker.


Pay it forward – searching for a more ethical incentive

Ethical Incentivesethical incentives

In the business world it is a fairly common tactic to use bonuses, commissions and other rewards to incentivize performance and retention among employees. Is it possible to create a more powerful incentive however, where the employee who does the work receives nothing personally? In addition, could it be possible to create an incentive where the individual receives nothing, but generates good will among others?

A few years ago I worked with the business development team at a well known Australian charity. It was at an important stage in the organization’s growth. They had a proven product and a good understanding of their market. The challenge was simply one of increasing volume, filling up business in quiet periods and making the whole operation more profitable. Sounds simple doesn’t it.

Specific Examples

The organization was highly effective at retaining existing clients, with over 75% having been with them for over 15 years. Each year there was a small attrition of clients, and a modest acquisition of new clients. To meet the organizations growth, profitability and sustainability targets, new sales needed to ramp up significantly. The team had participated in training, implemented new sales tracking tools and managed its contacts more closely. The organization also invested in innovating new programs and services to take to market. Aside from the new style programs, none of these made a significant difference to increasing sales.

The Executive Team considered whether the organization needed to business ethics managementimplement an incentive scheme for its sales staff. Prior to this, business development staff were salaried and conducted sales alongside client management. There were no specialist sales people in this team – each person had a client management and a sales function. Over a two year period, the CEO proposed to the team that a bonus and commission system be implemented. Each time the proposal was rejected by staff. They stated that their motivation for working for the organization and serving their clients was not out of money, but out of a genuine desire to see the mission fulfilled.

After two years, an incentive system was implemented anyway. Staff would receive an annual bonus for making budget, and an additional percentage commission on any new clients they brought on. It was fascinating to see what happened to the team culture almost immediately. Where the team was previously highly collaborative, they were now more keen to pick up the new prospect and keep that to themselves. Some healthy competition was good of course, and led to increased motivation for some.

Problems Identified in the Model

What started to appear however were some really strong problems. One of the problems with the operational model was that the organization was already beyond capacity at certain times of the year. The organization needed new clients, but could only accommodate them in the quiet times. It seemed that every prospect that came into the sales cycle wanted the busy times. What ended up happening was that the sales staff made the sale, loaded up the operational team with a workload that would almost break them, and then the sales staff got the commission. This is on top of the sales team already earning more than the operational team.

When word got out that the sales team were earning commissions, it was perceived that they were being rewarded for burdening the staff in the operational team. The organization now had an ethical dilemma on its hands – what is the fair way to reward and treat staff as a way of respecting their various contributions?

The solution came from neither Management nor Human Resources. It came from the Sales Team itself. The sales staff got together to creatively rethink its incentive system – not the management, but the people who were to receive the bonuses. They put forward a proposal whereby the Sales Team and Operational Management Team had to work together to determine how any new business would be accommodated. Any rewards earned through new business would not be paid to the sales team, but rather to the operational team as an end-of-year gift. This recognized that it was the delivery staff that actually bore the brunt of the these decisions.

This was a remarkable cultural act in itself. Further to the cultural success, what ended up occurring was that the operational team were more open to collaborating to see new business find a place in the operational calendar. The two teams worked creatively to find a way to make it work.

This is an example in behavioral ethics of something called ‘bounded awareness’. According to Bazerman and Tenbrunsel in Blind Spots, “bounded awareness refers to the common tendency to exclude important and relevant information from our decisions by place arbitrary and dysfunctional bounds around our definition of a problem”. The problem was initially defined as purely and simply a ‘sales problem’, which led a simplistic ‘incentive solution’. The initial incentive created a blind spot to the more complex dynamic that was happening in the organization around operational flows, interdepartmental management, client needs, impacts on delivery staff and the cultural values of the organization. A simple incentive blinded the staff to seeing that complexity and what was actually needed.


While the new incentive did not necessarily achieve the significant increase in sales that the organization was seeking, it did allow the organization to see and understand itself more effectively. It managed to understand client needs, test the limits of its operational model, push the creative and ethical skills of its staff, build more healthy workplace relationships and bring its multiple stakeholders together around this complex problem.

Incentives can be powerful, and have far greater ethical impacts than we perhaps give credit it. Rethinking incentives in this case opened hearts and minds, and led to a more ethical outcome for all concerned.


The ethics of working outside of one’s competence

The Importance of Competencyethical standard

It is a basic ethical standard in most professions and industries for one to operate within their field of competence. This is true in law, medicine, psychotherapy, financial advice and more. Professional bodies will often dictate what the minimum standards of competence are, and codes of ethics require or suggest that professionals operate within the individual’s level of competence.

In the first instance, it is up to the individual professional to self-regulate and operate to their level of competence. It is generally accepted that if a professional comes up against the limits of their competence, they refer to the matter to a colleague or someone with the competence to handle the situation.

Competency Withing Your Profession

Professional competence and minimum standards are important ethically in order to protect both the industry from ‘dodgy operators’, and also to protect clients and customers from harm caused by poor practice. This is interesting for the field of ‘doing good’, which is neither regulated nor has suggested minimum standards of competence. It is an area with very low barriers to entry. Basically, anyone can start a charity, community service or business. One does not need a particular set of skills or competence; all they need is an idea. There are bodies like the Australian Community Workers Association that promote and support community workers, including outlining codes of ethics and providing ongoing professional development. Being a member of this body is not a legislated prerequisite for employment in the community sector however.

Role in Society

As a social entrepreneur and long-term do-gooder, I have found myself in numerous situations where I was pushed beyond my level of competence. This was particularly so when I served in the role of CEO. While I had previously built a strong level of competence in service delivery, in taking a leadership and management role there were areas in which I simply had little to no formal experience. As a CEO or entrepreneur, your role is not simply in designing or delivering a service. You engage in financial management, fundraising, governance, people management, conflict resolution and more. Many of the situations one faces in leadership roles can have an ethical dimension to them. In these roles, there are bound to be experiences where one does not know how to respond.

In situations where I was pushed beyond my level of competence, I would in most cases seek out advice from others on how I should approach as situation. In some situations I sought advice from lawyers, in which of course their advice would be almost purely legal in orientation, rather than acknowledge human psychological dimensions to a situation. In other cases I sought advice from other CEO’s. While I could relate to their experience and their advice was generally more rounded, it was still most often informed by and limited to their own past experience. Knowing where to go for sound advice in facing ethical challenges was and can be difficult. It was important to me to have a wide network of people I could turn to, which represented diversity of thinking and experience.

Social entrepreneurship and the community service sector have some particularly interesting ethical dimensions that make this even more significant as an issue. As a lot of community services either explicitly or implicitly focus on improving peoples lives, this can easily cross into areas of vulnerability for both staff and clients.  I have met a number of people in my work who either as staff or clients are seeking to heal aspects of their past. In a workplace, it is easy to find situations whereby people require friends, managers, counselors, mentors or therapists. It is important to understand the complexity of roles that one may be called to take on in a workplace or social service, and to operate within the bounds of one’s competence. Playing dual or multiple roles for people can be very confusing and ethically tricky. Indeed, many codes of ethics explicitly advise against playing dual roles.

To take a common example, if you come back from a holiday to Cambodia and want to start an orphanage, perhaps you could consider what experience and skills you have that make you competent to do that. What roles might be required of you in operating such a service? What skills or competences would be required to create, operate and deliver a service to children in often vulnerable situations? How might you respond if you find yourself in a situation where you are operating beyond your level of competence? How might you need to have in your team or network to support in situations like this?

My Suggestions

I’m not necessarily suggesting that entrepreneurship becomes a regulated industry. It is the openness and freedom to operate which allows a certain dynamism. Being conscious of the limits of our competence is important however, and having strategies in place to be able to refer to others is critical. Above all, as Plato says (and often quoted by @uncompromise) “Know Thyself”. Give some thought to your skills and their limitations. Self-knowledge is essential to all ethics.


Beyond ‘disadvantage’: rethinking how we talk

Beyond DisadvantageBeyond Disadvantage

I have long been conscious of words, labels and how language can shape our reality. Initially my experience of labels was a personal one. Not just because of my sexuality, but indeed loads of experiences throughout my life have taught me the power and limitation of words.

After some harrowing times, at fifteen I embarked on a quest to reconstruct my world by being careful of how I spoke of myself and what I was prepared to accept from others. I had previously heard teachers and peers at school describe me in ways that I simply accepted and adopted as truth. More insidious were the words I used internally; flowing without filter or question. I was creating my world and reality in every thought.

My Story

Later in my twenties I became a teacher and heard this language from the other side. I heard teachers refer to students as bad students, good students, ADHD students, non-believers, distracted students and more. These words were used so unconsciously and I doubt the users had awareness of their power in shaping the young people they were supposed to be serving.

This understanding of the power of language is not revelatory. The positive psychology and personal development movements have helped open the world up to understanding how language can shape reality for individuals. While our systems and cultures still perpetuate some of these habits and misuses, I witness greater consciousness among teachers and youth workers now.

Community Development

One field that this has not been as developed or mainstreamed is community development. In my working with communities and non-profit organizations, I continually hear leaders, CEO’s, organizations, politicians and social workers refer to communities as ‘disadvantaged’, ‘deprived’, ‘poor’, ‘developing’ and more. There are endless labels that are used to diagnose, describe and distinguish communities. None of these, or indeed any label is truth in itself. It may provide one way of looking at the total story, but it is not the total story.

The diagnosis of communities via labeling is so prolific, incredibly unconscious, and its impact is profoundly destructive. There is a problem in defining problems. As soon as you give a label to it, that label and its descriptions actually become the problem. By giving collective attention to something, you invariably create that as a problem. Diagnosis limits thinking, not open it up. It narrows focus on just that one way of seeing something.

Last week I was fortunate to do some work in a community in Tasmania. This community has been described by the Government as a highly disadvantaged community. This label was not uninformed of course, just poorly informed and constructed. The label was derived from statistical data that shows the prevalence of unemployment and education outcomes. It is a giant leap to see data like this, and create that language to talk about it. My experience of this community is that it is full of wonderfully creative and highly intelligent leaders. Yes, the community may have challenges in certain parts, but we need to be conscious of how the language we use might fuel or escalate those challenges.

Does this mean that we stop talking or using language? In my own life there was a moment when I came to use labels consciously and powerfully. I struggled for a long time with calling myself gay, and not because of my identity or how I experienced myself. I struggled because I didn’t want to be defined by the word ‘gay’. I saw myself as something more than this. I have now come to be able to powerfully use the ‘gay’ word in my life. For me labels are powerful when used to help describe, and incredibly dangerous when used to define someone or something.

There are two other important aspects to my use of the word ‘gay’. Firstly, I use it in a positive context to describe an aspect of myself that I love. Often the word gay is used in derogatory and negative ways to describe not just people but experiences, objects and more. Secondly, I am conscious when I use the word to describe myself; I am giving meaning to my own life and identity. I am not ascribing a label to others to talk about them. When we use words to diagnose others, we are violating the spiritual laws of freedom. Who am I to give or limit the meaning or identity of another.

The last thing to say about labeling communities or collectives is that they comprise such diversity. To apply simple descriptions to communities, we deny and ignore the magical multiplicity of experiences that live within them. Even individuals are dynamic – changing and growing with life experience. We can label food (as the image at top suggests) because they comprise consistently the same ingredients that should have little variance. Individuals and communities do have elements of variance, and that’s what makes them magnificent.

My Recommendation

If you are a community leader or worker, entrepreneur, business person or whatever, your opportunity here is to become more conscious of the language that you use and accept. Be wary of jumping to simple, quick and accepted diagnoses of problems, especially with labels. As soon as you apply a label to something, it will constrain your thinking. Liberate yourself and your communities by staying in empathy, following creativity, and avoiding the limitation of jumping to labels and diagnosis.


Engineering Ethics and Its Importance to Society

Engineering EthicsEngineering Ethics and Society

Every profession has ethics that guides its members. Engineering as a profession has its ethics that are laid down rules to protect engineers and the public at large. One cannot underestimate the importance of engineering ethics in the society in regards to its welfare, health and protection.

Engineers require a balance of moral thinking, legal importance, costs, safety, standards, risk investigation and benefits. Engineering Ethics comprises a body of ethical rules that apply to the study of engineering.

Ethical Problems Faced By Practicing Engineers

The ethical problems experienced by practicing engineers are not quickly resolved, and they are of different types. Ethical Problems influence a large scale of engineering custodians and decisions about doing what is right, frequently fall into an uncertain area that is best unclear and disastrous at worst.

It is good to understand the minor distinctions of many approaches to ethical testing and essential decision making. Most times, the right decision taken by a vast majority of engineering stakeholders always have some negative influence on the majority.

The principle of ethical utilitarianism states that the right decision is that which leads to the highest good for the most considerable number of engineering stakeholders is not the best moral decision made.

Other ethical principles like respect for colleagues and moral ethics may produce better ethical decisions resolving severe problems. It is important to note that immediate cognition is not the best way of making ethical decisions.

Engineering Codes of Ethicscode of ethics

Engineering Codes Of ethics are laid down rules of practice that give a framework for making ethical decisions in respect to historical research, where wrongly decisions made have led to negative results. Even though engineer codes of ethics are alike across disciplines, they have their different historical background.

The primary principles published on the National Society of Professional Engineers website are worthy of comparison with the codes of ethics written by Individual Professional Society. They include;

  1. Hold the highest importance of safety, health and welfare of the public.
  2. Carryout services only in areas of specialization.
  3. Give public statements only in an objective and sincere manner.
  4. Work for every employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
  5. Abstain from deceptive acts.
  6. Carry themselves honorably, responsibly, lawfully and ethically to ensure and improve the honor, reputation, and effectiveness of the profession.

The Importance of Engineering Ethics to the Society

Engineering, as a profession, has a culture and set of practices of their own. Engineers have developed a set of ethics to guild them whenever their services are needed in society. Just like every other craft work, there are a lot of engineering standards to consider when providing services to a client. The most important duty of an engineer is to protect the well being of the public. That is, be sure of any services provided and carryout appropriate testing to ensure the safety of any project, even when the engineer has chances to offer low-quality services for his/her benefits.

The Takeaway

Conclusively, all engineers have the right to report any fault notice during production or construction to the appropriate government regulatory body, if the organization they work for fails to adhere to the right ethics. This may sometimes cause them their job, but they should always remember that protecting the interest of the public is their first-ever responsibility as an engineer.