Adams’ Ethics Pizza

Over a number of years I’ve been trying to determine those actions which an organisation needs to take to build an ethical culture.

Adams’ Ethics Pizza ©

Over a number of years I’ve been trying to determine those actions which an organisation needs to take to build an ethical culture. A few weeks ago while scribbling down some ideas, the diagram below – which I have titled the Adams’ Ethics Pizza - took shape and I introduce it today and look forward to receiving your comments.


The “pizza” should be read clockwise from the first “slice” – “Clear Desire & Intent”.

Step 1 - The top management of the organisation should set out clearly (in writing) the desire and intent to achieve a climate of ethical behaviour where the vision, mission, objectives, policies and procedures are aligned in such a way that management, team members, suppliers and customers are fully aware of this intention and where all activities are harmonised to achieve this goal.

Step 2 – Top management should play a visual and vocal role in introducing and managing this strategy in the organisation and should, by their own personal example, set the benchmark for the behaviour that is expected from every team member.

Step 3 – A list of those common values which all team members and stakeholders will be expected to embrace and live-out should be drawn up and communicated to all. The practical outworking of these values in the workplace should be work-shopped with all team members to ensure that they are on-board and the expectations of the organisation should be communicated to all prospective employees or stakeholders well in advance and should be inculcated during the on-boarding process.

Step 4 – Although this process should be owned and driven by top management, a suitable champion should be appointed to manage the day-to-day implementation of all the processes. He or she should be a senior manager with direct access to top management who has the strength of character, personality and passion to achieve the organisation’s objectives.

Step 5 – Another critical success factor is ongoing training and awareness to ensure that the process achieves traction and that the momentum is maintained.

Step 6Open and honest communication should be welcomed and encouraged and leaders at all levels should be approachable be trained to listen to team members who approach them for advice or guidance. An independently managed facility should exist where team members and other stakeholders can report issues that are unlawful, unethical or inappropriate anonymously and confidentially without fear of victimisation. The organisation should also facilitate an ethics advice-line where anyone is able to call for advice or the clarification of the organisation’s policies and procedures.

Step 7 – As cohesion is critical to build a common ethos in any organisation, leaders at all levels should take every opportunity to build team spirit and morale. Successes should be recognised, applauded and rewarded.

Step 8 – The final step is to ensure that top management commit to dealing with unacceptable behaviour firmly and consistently. All stakeholders should be absolutely clear what behaviour is not acceptable and what the consequences of such behaviour will be.

“YOU” (and for that matter me and everyone else) are at the centre of the “pizza” and our commitment and behaviour are absolutely critical to the success of the organisation’s journey towards becoming ethical and totally aligned. There is no room for any passengers on this trip and each and every one of us has to play our part.

I also strongly believe that a “rules” and “compliance” based approach (on its own) will never lead to an organisation becoming ethical and totally aligned. To achieve this objective all the stakeholders, from the top to the bottom, have to embrace and internalise the shared values, ethos and strategy. I have called this “Ethics Inside Out™” and believe that unless all stakeholders set a personal example, live out the ethos and strive to achieve the common goal, no amount of rules, compliance and policing will achieve anything.

The concept of the “pizza” is particularly valuable in determining an Ethical Profile for a particular enterprise. I have developed a tool which evaluates and rates each of the eight steps or segments on a scale where “Poor” is 1 and “Excellent” is 9. “Poor” is at the centre of each slice or segment and “Excellent” is at the circumference. In the unlikely event that any organisation will be totally aligned and score “Excellent” in every segment it will be a perfectly round and balanced “pizza”.

More realistically, most enterprises will, at least initially, score between 1 and 9 and the resulting Ethics Profile will be very valuable in indicating those areas of weakness which require remediation or those areas which score highly which require reinforcement. This process should lead to the creation of a formal Ethics Improvement Plan which should set out the detailed actions and resources which should be applied to achieve the desired levels of improvement.

This tool should be applied from time-to-time to determine whether the Ethics Improvement Plan is having the desired results and it should be tweaked and adjusted where necessary.

© Brian Michael Adams – Honey Badger Solutions (Pty) Ltd - 2015