Compliance and Integrity


In the earliest stages, organizational ethics centered on the narrow perspective of ethics—the notion of compliance. Are we following the laws? Are we at risk from litigation? If so, how do we minimize that risk?

Ethics programs matured and ethics officers, most of whom are selected from the managerial ranks with little, if any, special preparation, developed increased sophistication regarding the challenges facing their organizations. Both the ethics officers and their organizations began to embrace personal and corporate values in decision making (value-based decision making) as the logical expansion of the definition of what it means to be ethical. What has emerged is what many ethics officers today characterize as the “best practices” model of the ethics office and of a values-based corporation.

But change continues. What is emerging today is a more holistic definition of what it means to be a “good” corporation. This new, global view will again help to reshape the responsibilities and focus of the ethics officer.

The shift to a global perspective means another broadening of the definition of ethics. “Global Integrity” is the latest descriptor, and it embraces both compliance and ethics. It also adds concern for rule of law, human rights, good governance, labor/child labor concerns, anti-corruption/anti-bribery, concern for the environment, safety, social responsibility, good corporate citizenship, and respect for the whole diverse array of local cultures to the definition. This increases the organization’s obligation to reach beyond traditional company boundaries to consider how decisions would affect the surrounding community. One consequence of this new global definition of the organizational ethics is increased scrutiny by stakeholders, especially advocacy groups and the media.

Corporate ethics officers, especially those in multinational corporations and/or corporations with global suppliers/markets, are being challenged with fundamental questions in this expanded integrity area. Perhaps the most common, and most challenging, is how the corporation will balance the desire for global standards (consistency) against the need for local application of standards.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Goodbye Industrial Economy, Hello Global Knowledge Economy


Goodbye the state running things, hello Global Joe Citizen empowered by the technology-driven changes in the first decade of the 21st Century and with a mobility beyond the wildest dreams of those who brought us into this world. Yes, I do mean us, fellow global citizens.

The 20th Century was all about us having to rely on governments to deal with those issues beyond our personal capacity to influence, regardless of how much concern and anxiety were personally invested. Simply put, this has all changed.

Just as the world landscape is now determined by a new order of collaborative arrangements, so the time has come for us all to seize control of our choices and pursue new personal value-led collaborations.

Together you and I must make it work for all our fellow global citizens, not least the 800 million who will go to bed hungry tonight. If the values, beliefs, ideals, and ethics that we take with us to work each day do not result in our business environment adding rather than detracting from the sum of global cooperation, our long-term personal and corporate business goals are doomed to failure.

But what we do have is a business environment pregnant with possibility and unfettered by past constraints of geography and technology. It is up to us as individuals to nurture an atmosphere where value-led decision making thrives.

Corporate culture looking beyond traditional business horizons is the agenda item of the moment. The public scrutiny and disapprobation flowing from corporate scandals on a global scale request and require a re-evaluation of compliance with ethical, environmental and social imperatives. A new collective, caring culture is no longer just an attitude of mind rather than depth of pocket; it makes good business sense.

Therein is your desirable future: you are the engine that drives new connection between global business and your community. Integrity is the fuel that drives both the engine and the process. Take control of your choices and root them in the eternal triangle of truth, trust and peace. Without truth there can be no trust and without trust there can be no peace. Adopt this landscape for mapping your relationships. Until people trust you, they will not change with you. So many of today’s leaders now fail to fulfill their ambitions for this very reason. Never underestimate the power of good intent. When you change, the world changes with you.

The more your ambitions are aligned to the benefit of humanity as well as your business, the more relevant the product of your labor will be. In turn, the more valuable you become in the market place, the greater your capacity to take control of your choices and your future. A values-led approach and entrepreneurial spirit advancing an enterprise culture are not mutually exclusive.

On the distant future day you finally retire from your business world, your peers, looking back, will judge you on your actions and achievements not just on your beliefs.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

A Socially Responsive Company


Executive leaders of largest corporations have been confronted with an unprecedented increase in the social issues impinging upon their business policies and practices. Not only have a variety of social regulations have been developed that apply universally to all industries, but each industry has also experienced to varying degrees a proliferation of industry-specific challenges for the corporate social environment.

In response to the pressures, businesses have increased their efforts to manage for corporate social environment. The social environment encompasses business activities influenced by various community and government groups. Many chief executives spend more time on the external affairs of the business than any other activity. Most executives allocate significant personnel, time, and budget to the creation of elaborate staff groups to help them understand and manage this environment and its challenges.

Some firms may be more vulnerable to social group pressure and social regulation than others. A number of factors have been identified as contributing to this vulnerability. A firm may be more vulnerable to social forces if the firm is:

  • A large-sized or well-known company thus presenting a big target.
  • Located in an urban area and under increased scrutiny by the media and social groups.
  • Producing a consumer-oriented product viewed as a necessity by the public.
  • Providing a product or service that may cause harm or injury to the user.
  • Part of a heavily regulated industry that is expected to meet high public expectations.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Attitude and Customer Liaison


Attitude is not always easy to understand, train or instill. It is generally defined as a positive, enthusiastic and helpful attitude – somebody that seems more alive and dead, it means somebody who seems to enjoy what they do or enjoys dealing with customers, not just somebody who happens to do this as a job to earn a living. Even though this may be true, a good customer service experience is one where the customer service person pretends if nothing else, that they enjoy their job – they like doing what they do and they are pleased to see the customer. If the customer representative can do this, the customer will pretend to enjoy buying from them and pretend enough that they will probably come back.

One of the most important aspects of attitude is when the customer is dissatisfied. The customer will then seem to view life through a telephoto lens and every detail or every aspect of the interaction will come under scrutiny. Therefore, the attitude must be to look at a glass of water as half full, instead of half empty.

One of the most important and outward expression of attitude is the verbal and non-verbal behavior that people use at critical times. Simple expressions, such as: ‘I can do that’ or ‘There’s nothing I can do’ or ‘That’s our company policy’ or ‘I only work here’ or ‘You’ve come through to wrong extension,’ only frustrate the customer. Some of these factors, of course, may not be because of anything the person can do; however, it is their attitude that will often create more of an annoyance with the customer than the policy itself. A simple solution to this is that whenever somebody has to be told they can’t do something, within the same sentence they have to know what they can do or may do.

The attitude that will work, if you can instill it, is that every single customer is your most important customer. Instead of seeing a customer for the transaction value that they spend at that time or for the nature of their enquiry, see the customer as a million dollar customer, somebody who has access to large revenue, either through their direct spending or indirectly through referrals and repeat business.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Customer Retention Program


To develop an effective customer retention (CR) program, organization can follow this five-step process:

  1. Determine your current CR rate. It is surprising how few companies know the percentage of customers that leave (the defection rate) or the percentage of customers that they are able to retain annually (the retention rate). There are many ways to measure customer retention. Choosing an appropriate measure provides a starting point for assessing a firm’s success in keeping customers.
  2. Analyze the defection problem. This is a three-pronged attack. First, we must identify disloyal customers. Second we need to understand why they left. There are six types of defectors. Customers go elsewhere because of lower price, superior products, better service, alternative technologies, market changes (they move or go bankrupt), and “political” considerations; (switching motives) can also provide insight here. Third, strategies must be developed to overcome the non-loyal purchasing behavior.
  3. Establish a new CR objective. Let’s assume that your company is currently retaining 75% of its customers. A realistic goal may be to improve client retention annually by at least 5%, to 80%, and to keep 90% of your clients within 5 years. Customer-retention objectives should be based on organizational cabalities (strengths, weaknesses, resources, etc.), customer and competitive analyses, and benchmarking with the industry or sector, comparable firms, and high performing units in your company.
  4. Invest in targeted CR plan to enhance customer loyalty. The cost (potential lifetime value) of a single lost customer can be substantial. This is magnified exponentially when we realize the overall annual cost of lost business.
  5. Evaluate the success of the CR program. As an iterative process, the final phase in designing a solid customer retention plan is to ensure that it is working. Careful scrutiny is required to assess the program’s impact on keeping existing customers. Upgrading current customer relationships may be a secondary business objective. At this point, we gather new information to learn to what extent our CR rate improved. We may need to revisit our benchmarks and further probe isolated causes of defection. CR strategies and tactics will be closely analyzed to determine which methods worked best and those that had little or no impact on keeping customers.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Compelling Business Principles


The development of the business principles is a first stage for developing and raising the standards of practice in countering bribery. The fair business principles provide a practical tool to which companies can look for a comprehensive reference to good practice to counter bribery. Business principles are becoming an essential tool in the future for businesses and the companies of today should encourage using them as a starting point for developing their own anti-bribery systems or as a benchmark.

I had heard and even observed how corrupt practices are carried out in businesses that add the extras to win export orders. For toting up luster to the evenings of the visiting business partners particularly from Gulf States, they fix up their visits to discotheques and nightspots. They also maintain luxury flats outfitted with floozy beauties for making the stay of the business guests a unique affair.

Unfortunately, such unethical practices have sneaked into the system via some (not all) businesses in different countries. That’s what I personally experienced when once as member of a foreign business team visiting an Asian country and staying at a luxury hotel, a businessman tried unethical tricks to win business contracts. He called from the lobby and told about the undeserved and undesired gift he brought for me.

Years ago in a domestic flight to the capital in a country in Asia a passenger seated next to me told that he was visiting the capital about a government tender. He was confident that he would win the contract. When I asked about the source of his confidence he pointed to two girls seated in the rear and said, “Those butterflies (exquisite women) will make it happen.”

Most of companies contribute to election campaigns of this candidate or that. Interestingly sometimes some companies sponsor candidates of two opposing political parties. The idea is to get unjustifiable favors after the horse wins.

There can be endless list of such companies, which are ready to do anything to get business favors.

It is no mystery that a lapse in business ethics or even the appearance of one can significantly harm the reputation and business of a company. Once a company is suspected, accused, or found guilty of corporate wrongdoing, it often becomes subject to the scrutiny of governmental agencies, the corporate community and the general public.

Private sector organizations must now take account of increasingly stringent domestic and international regulatory frameworks. There is growing corporate awareness of the risks posed by bribery, particularly in the light of scandals, and the public is expecting greater accountability and probity from the corporate sector.

Emphasis needs to be laid on business principles for enterprises to prohibit bribery in any form whether direct or indirect. They should also commit to implementation of programs for countering bribery. These principles are based on a commitment to fundamental values of integrity, transparency and accountability. Firms should aim to create and maintain a trust-based and inclusive internal culture in which bribery is not tolerated.

Thus an enterprise’s anti-bribery efforts including values, policies, processes, training and guidance will become tools of future corporate governance and risk management strategies for countering bribery and unethical practices.

As part of civil society, at macro level, Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry should work out a framework reflecting size of the companies, business sectors, potential risks and locations of operations. This should, clearly and in reasonable detail, articulate values, policies and procedures for preventing bribery from occurring in all activities under their effective control.

Such programs should be consistent with all laws relevant to countering bribery in all the jurisdictions in which an enterprise operates, particularly laws that are directly relevant to specific business practices.

At micro level each enterprise should develop programs in consultation with its employees, trade unions or other employee representative bodies. It should ensure that it is informed of all matters material to the effective development of the program by communicating with relevant interested parties.

While developing its program for countering bribery, the companies should analyze which specific areas pose the greatest risks from bribery. The programs should address the most prevalent forms of bribery relevant to each firm but at a minimum should cover areas such as bribes, political contributions, facilitation payments, gifts, hospitality and expenses.

A company should prohibit the offer, gift, or acceptance of a bribe in any form, including kickbacks, on any portion of a contract payment, or the use of other routes or channels to provide improper benefits to customers, agents, contractors, suppliers or employees of any such party or government officials.

It should also prohibit an employee from arranging or accepting a bribe or kickback from customers, agents, contractors, suppliers, or employees of any such party or from government officials, for the employee’s benefit or that of the employee’s family, friends, associates or acquaintances.

The enterprise, its employees or agents should not make direct or indirect contributions to political parties, organizations or individuals engaged in politics, as a way of obtaining advantage in business transactions.

Each company should publicly disclose all its political contributions, charitable contributions and sponsorships. It should ensure that charitable contributions and sponsorships are not being used as a subterfuge for bribery.

The enterprise should prohibit the offer or receipt of gifts, hospitality or expenses whenever such arrangements could affect the outcome of business transactions and are not reasonable and bona fide expenditures.

The board of directors, CEOs and senior management should demonstrate visible and active commitment to the implementation of the business principles.

The business organizations should assert elimination of bribery; demonstrate their commitment to countering bribery; and make a positive contribution to improving business standards of integrity, transparency and accountability wherever they operate. Business principles are going to evolve reflection of changes in anti-bribery practice as well as the lessons learned from their use and application by business.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight