Slow down for better ethics

Interesting tidbit (and relevant for internal audit) from an article in the latest Economist on how taking time to make decisions results in getting the ethics right:

Slowing down makes us more ethical. When confronted with a clear choice between right and wrong, people are five times more likely to do the right thing if they have time to think about it than if they are forced to make a snap decision. Organizations with a “fast pulse” (such as banks) are more likely to suffer from ethical problems than those that move more slowly… The authors suggest that companies should make greater use of “cooling-off periods” or introduce several levels of approval for important decisions.

Several levels of approval for important decisions sounds like a fantastic idea to me. What I find is that too many decisions are made or approvals given orally in meetings, with scant evidence to support their existence later, in case of an audit. Surely introducing more rigor around this aspect of approvals would further improve ethical behaviour!

Delay even works in fields where time might seem to be of the essence. Doctors and pilots can profit from following a checklist, even when doing things they have done many times before. A list slows them down and makes them more methodical, as Atul Gawande describes in “The Checklist Manifesto”.

Now you’re beginning to see why this article prompted me to write a blog post for the first time in umpteen weeks! Not just levels of approval, but checklists too? Be still my beating heart!

Auditors have been employing checklists to improve quality for eons. It’s great to see articles like this extolling their virtues to all people and for all tasks.

CA ad campaign: Decisions Matter

Got an email last week about an update to the Decisions Matter ad campaign the CICA has been running for the designation:

The Decisions Matter ad campaign is aimed at shifting the traditional perception of the CA designation and promoting CAs as business leaders and key decision-makers in every organization. The campaign is very different from what we’ve done in the past. It is more assertive in establishing CAs as the leading business professionals and, in its originality, has been specifically designed to break through the media clutter.

I like the direction in which this strategy is taking us. For one, it is vocation agnostic, in that it doesn’t focus on CAs in public practice more than those in industry. And I like the attention that “decisions” are receiving, but I think that execution needs to be emphasized as well. Making the right decision is great, but acting on it is critical.

As a CA you have an important role to play in supporting this campaign. You can promote the CAs’ reputation as business leaders with a few simple steps:

  • Include your CA designation on business cards and other communications;
  • Ensure your professional network knows you are a CA. This includes the organizations you volunteer with;
  • When making presentations, discuss how your CA training has powered your achievements;
  • In interviews, introduce yourself as a CA; and
  • Talk about the Decisions Matter campaign with your family, friends and business contacts.

No mention of starting a blog and establishing your online brand in concert with the CA designation, but you can’t win ’em all I guess. If there’s one area that the CICA has thus far completely ignored it’s the social media space. Excuse me though, it’s time to ring the family and discuss this campaign with them, that’ll really promote our reputation!

My recommendation is to follow up the Decisions Matter campaign with something more focused on executing great ideas/decisions. Advising is valuable, deciding is important, but executing is key. What do you think of the campaign’s message and how it’s positioning CAs?