Without Control–the Patient Dialog

Remember when there were 200 firms in the Fortune 100?

How long ago was that? I think it was around the same time when people still thought you shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day. Time to drop-kick those white pumps to the back of the closet. What made me think of that bit of nonsense was a meeting I had recently with one of the sharpest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet professionally, and a classmate of mine from grad school. She happens to be the founder and president of one of the country’s go-to firms for dealing with business ethics. Having served as a board member for several publicly-traded firms, as well as chairing their audit committees, when the Andersen and Enron scandals hit she went looking for professionals who could help her help her firms. When she couldn’t find the help, she created it.

That conversation got me thinking and made me wonder why there were no longer 200 firms in the Fortune 100. Was it; is it, a matter of business ethics? How often do unethical practices come up when firms interact with their customers? A couple of takeaways from the meeting—for board members to be able to meet their obligation, they ought to do more than reply on the meeting book pulled together by the firm they serve. Simply relying on the book presumes ethical behavior, a presumption not always supported by fact—how much should one believe if the information is being provided by someone who purchased a $900 shower curtain?

What can they do? Due diligence is being reinvented, and the Social Network is leading the charge. One example is to go to Yahoo Chat to see what’s really being said about your organization. Other things I’ve done to obtain facts and opinions, things which particularly gauge how customers and employees feel about the firm include Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to name just a few. You don’t need patient focus groups to learn what’s being said, or to learn how good a job your hospital is doing. The patients already have a laser focus. In many instances the group lacking the focus is the healthcare provider.

Firms should focus on maintaining a strong Reputation Bank, one strong enough to be able to handle withdrawals, because you never know when there might be a run on the bank. Might be a good time to look at your own bank deposit slips.  Deposits can be made easily through the social media network.  You can’t stop patients from talking about you but you can shape what they say.

A few thoughts on ethics

Leigh Fazzina pointed me to this posting on ethics and suggested I may wish to comment.  You know me, I can’t resist a keyboard.  Here’s the link.  http://comprehension.prsa.org/?p=792&cpage=1#comment-2877

Ethics–if all it required was an understanding of the English (the language, not the British) then there wouldn’t be much to say.

I am not someone who believes there is a need for ethics training. The rules for what constitutes ethical behavior have not changed. Something is either ethical or it isn’t. What has changed are the boundaries. Individuals constantly shift the boundaries, expanding the realm of what is ethical. In the minds of most individuals, those boundaries differ by person and by situation.

I operate from a mindset that ethical boundaries are fixed. As an example, consider the boundaries between the US and its neighbors. Those are fixed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t those who don’t like where the boundary is between the US and Canada, or those who would argue that the boundary should be different, or those who believe the boundary is different. Disliking the positioning of the boundary, or disbelieving the positioning of the boundary does not invalidate the boundary.

When people expand the boundaries for what they choose to call ethical behavior, they rarely do so at their own peril. Generally, they do so for their own convenience, they do so to remove any latent feelings of guilt. Each time they move the boundary, it makes it that much easier to move it the next time. Taken to its limit, at some point there are no boundaries.

Setting larger boundaries in some sense allows people to draft their own sets of Commandments, like little mini-Moseses descending from Mount Sinai with their sets of ethics. Unlike Moses’ stoned-carved commandments, the mini-Moseses draft theirs on an Etch-A-Sketch, making them much easier to change.

However, I don’t think ethical behavior need stem from nor be limited to any religious belief. It need not be employed because of some fear of punishment, but because of a love of righteousness and out of respect for others.

My perspective is integrity is doing what’s right even if nobody is watching. A person of ethics knows what’s right even if nobody is asking, and ethical behavior requires action in order to be expressed.