UntitledA code of ethics is a compilation of ethical principals brought together into a framework that can be used to guide behavior.  I recently asked friends I work with how many codes of ethics they are bound by, and after a bit of discussion the average was four.  Examples include: IFPUG, PMI, IEEE, SEI, society and religions.  Kevin Brennan, Vice President for Professional Development of IIBA, tweeted me that a group needs a code of ethics to define itself as a profession and they are required for certification bodies under ISO 17024.

I would be the last person to suggest that codes of ethics are a bad idea.  However, the proliferation of codes combined with their relative complexity does give me pause.  An example of the complexity of common of codes of ethics is demonstrated below:

  • IIBA: Code of Ethical Conduct – 22 items
  • PMI : PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct – 36 items
  • IEEE: Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice – 80 items

All three of these codes are good, however I doubt very few people can recall any of their specifics. That greatly reduces their overall effectiveness.  Layer that on top of association codes, corporate codes like the great code of ethics from Lockheed (approximately 17 itemsand the complexity level goes up.  I said all of this complexity gives me pause because I would like to see process improvement professionals embrace a code of ethics, but I do not want to increase the level of ethical complexity unless it has value.  I think we can keep this deadly simple.  The code I am proposing is:

Process Improvement Code of Ethics

  1. Treat others as you would like to be treated.  (Golden Rule)
  2. Follow a process to create and maintain processes. (eat your own dog food)
  3. Meet the commitments you make.
  4.  Avoid personal conflicts of interest.
  5. Only pursue changes that benefit the organization.
  6. Make decisions as transparently as humanly possible.

I would suggest that this code is simple and to the point.  Note: I am making the assumption that you’re adhering to laws and that lying, cheating and stealing your neighbor’s Butterfinger are not on the table, based on other codes of ethics.

What is missing? If you adopted these ethical guidelines how would they affect your projects?  How would they affect your professional life?   I am looking forward to your input, reactions and suggestions.  I would also like your opinions on whether ethics and process improvement should be discussed in the same context.