Business leaders need to ensure their people have the tools to apply statements of values and ethical codes in their daily work. According to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas “Far too often corporate value statements and codes of ethical conduct are little more than words in an annual report or on a website. They can be referred to if someone asks about them, but at other times people may be just aware of their existence rather than actively applying them.”
Speaking at the Corporate Governance Summit and World Quality Congress Coulson-Thomas suggested “There is often a gap between rhetoric and reality, a gulf between aspiration and achievement. Many well meaning boards lack the means of knowing whether or not the values and practices they champion are being applied in the heat of battle, when there is a contract to be won, time to be saved or a budget to be cut. They restate the values and keep their fingers crossed.”
The Adaptation chairman advocated “an alternative to passing resolutions, making speeches and then hoping for the best. It is now possible to build best practices and the right way of doing things into corporate processes and the tools that people use to do their jobs. One can boost performance, speed up responses, reduce costs and at the same time contain risks and ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, codes and corporate policies.”
Coulson-Thomas believes “It is possible to be both successful and responsible, and to reconcile the need for profit with other requirements such as longer term sustainability. A new generation of tools are making it much easier for people to do stressful and difficult jobs effectively and ethically. They can quickly make an impact in areas where the pressures to cut corners may be the greatest.”
The new tools can incorporate the superior approaches of top performers as well as controls that prevent outcomes that would contravene a code, involve an unacceptable risk or breach a regulatory requirement. Coulson-Thomas’ own “Winning Companies; Winning People” research programme has identified many of the critical success factors and winning ways that enable high achievers to excel in vital areas for corporate success. By incorporating them into processes and tools he finds “average performers can be enabled to adopt the approaches of superstars when tackling complex challenges and doing difficult jobs.”
Having helped to improve the performance of over 100 boards Coulson-Thomas has encountered directors in many arenas and countries, and in the public and voluntary sectors as well as in companies. As an example he showed how his approach could apply to healthcare governance: “Public as well as private organisations face ethical questions. Areas such as healthcare are inherently complex. Ensuring compliance with rules, procedures and policies is vital for patient safety and preventing mistakes”
Healthcare boards operate in a regulated environment and face a variety of pressures and a combination of challenges that include increasing patient expectations, rising drug costs, increasing or aging populations, a higher incidence of chronic conditions and areas of social deprivation, at a time when resources are stretched. Performance tools can support the development, updating and practice of healthcare professionals, and ensure adherence to relevant procedures, regulations and standards.
Implementation is manageable, affordable and achievable. Benefits include better engagement with patients, greater understanding, improved productivity, reduced costs, quicker responses, faster dissemination of beneficial changes, less stress, higher standards of patient safety and care, and enforced and evidenced compliance. Costs are a tiny fraction of those devoted to some mega-projects, and substantial returns on investment can be quickly delivered.
Directors of over 4,000 organisations from smaller firms to major corporations and public bodies have participated in Prof. Coulson-Thomas’ research programme which identifies what the most effective directors and boards do differently. His books ‘Developing Directors’ and ‘Winning Companies; Winning people’ set out the differing approaches of those who are most and least successful. Both are published by Policy Publications.
Critical success factors for key corporate activities that have been identified by Prof. Coulson-Thomas’ research programme are set out in 20 reports that are also published by Policy Publications. Lessons from the investigations are incorporated into twenty five courses for directors and boards on particular activities that are vital for corporate success. Further information can be obtained from Adaptation.
The Corporate Governance Summit and 20th World Congress on Total Quality was organised by the Institute of Directors in India and the World Council for Corporate Governance. It was held in Bangalore. The theme of the conference was "Restoring Trust in the Markets by Enhancing the Quality of Boardroom”. Golden Peacock Awards were also presented. Prof. Coulson-Thomas spoke on improving the quality of corporate boards and on the challenges of ethical leadership in the economy of spiralling aspirations, as well as chairing a session of the congress and acting as a judge for the Golden Peacock awards for corporate social responsibility.
Boardroom consultant Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas of Adaptation has served on public, voluntary and professional committees and boards, including as a Chairman and/or President and helped over 100 boards improve director, board and corporate performance. He is the author of Developing Directors, has spoken at over 200 conferences in 40 countries, and sits on the Governance and Risk Management Committee of ACCA.