The Barometer has done quite a bit of work with companies and organizations that are grappling with the fallout from ethical lapses. One common thread that emerges in gathering information about how these folks got into difficulty — they all had very positive reports from consultants. “Mature compliance program”. “Top tier of companies on employee engagement.” “Has all the components of a compliance program as recommended by the federal government.” Still, many of these organizations are under CIAs, despite the reassurances third-party consultants gave to them about their ethics and compliance programs.
The Barometer has concluded that management and boards commission these consultant reports to provide themselves with the cover of being able to check the dashboard measures of a good ethics and compliance program. Wells Fargo would be an illustration — off the charts in ratings on ethics and compliance. The consultants provide technical reports that provide the assurance that all is well.
While managers and boards relied on these reports, their organizations were spinning into legal and ethical difficulties, sometimes quite quickly. Julie Sweet, the CEO of Accenture, had an interview with the New York Times on her journey to and experiences as a CEO of an organization of 469,000 employees. Her closing key to success, “I don’t care what level you are, there is a need to offer straight talk when you’re working with clients. You have to have the courage to deliver tough messages. We’re living in a world where clients constantly are saying to me, ‘The most important thing you can do is to tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.'” Enough said.
David Gellis, “Living as an Example of ‘Leading by Example,'” New York Times, January 6, 2019, p. BU6