Fantastic Codes of Ethics and Where to Find Them

Don Quixote Attacking The Windmill

If every organization, association, company, guild, union, club and institution created, adopted and lived by a Code of Ethics; perhaps the world would be a far better place in which to live and do bidness.

Am I dreaming? Perhaps. A little.

Though, I don’t believe it is out of the question for such organizations to consider and adopt such a code; to embrace a set of standards of conduct that are espoused, held as respectable examples and voluntarily exemplified by leadership and members of such a group.

In response to last week’s post, some have pointed out that “…we don’t have a Code of Ethics, and our Mission Statement says nothing about having the backs of one another…,” as though such absences – these failures to outline and stand up for doing business with honor and integrity – somehow justify looking the other way as members fall victim to inappropriate and generally unacceptable business practices.

Seeming to assert that, as these things aren’t covered in the organizational documents, said organization is absolved from any responsibility or blame. We can’t be bound by what we haven’t written and included.

Consider: perhaps the absence of such codes of recommended conduct and the ongoing voluntary, active support of them are a large part of the problem…

“We aren’t in a position to police our industries!”

Actually, “policing our industries” has not been suggested.

On the other hand, it may be accurate to suggest that a laissez-faire attitude toward irregular and sometimes dishonorable practices in the name of “doing business” over the past few decades has contributed to the proliferation of such conduct.

Perhaps transforming or evolving through example is a realistic, and potentially a compelling and effective, logical approach.

The association of which I am a proud member was founded, in part, under an implied umbrella of collective bargaining. The little independents who made up the core of this then-new and now-worldwide leader in the industries were often put in exceedingly exposed positions – and sometimes put out of business – due to accepted and standard practices of the Big Boys of the Industry. Not by intent, perhaps; but by [perhaps unintentional or careless] de facto design.

As the industries have grown and become more and more global, diversified, expanded, sophisticated; perhaps some of the spirit of those founding, aspirational moments have been lost… dissipated.

Those companies that have been able to afford the losses so often inherent in some contexts and cultures could slough those losses off; building protections against them into contracts in such a way as to protect profit even without the occasional failure to pay at the end of a project.

The shape and form of the industries have, however, changed.

Now, more so than ever before, a far greater segment of the work done worldwide is by and through ad hoc or to-the-project collaboration of small businesses and independent contractors – organized and managed under the purview of a pivotal entity, perhaps, but contracted directly with a much larger entity as Client.

Thus, financial dealings are not always equal within a given project; such that some companies and groups might be fully paid while other, smaller companies and individuals might be made to wait…or even never receive their full due.

This can seriously compromise the stability of the smaller businesses and individuals, or simply put them out of business.

With that, and harking back to broad and often ambiguous language found in Mission Statements and Statements of Purpose that speak of healthy growth of industries and quality of experience for audiences and customers; we are again confronted with the vital importance of advocating honorable business practice among colleagues, clients and contractors, worldwide.

To eschew such responsibilities – in my opinion pretty much inherent in the DNA of any such association – directly imperils the depth of the talent pool, the breadth of skills and talent at hand, indeed the very quality of skilled, contractable, collaborative expertise available to all of us as future projects materialize and future teams are assembled.

If they’re no longer in business, we have lost access to those assets and the quality of work achievable is at risk, overall.

So, Why Not…?

To be clear:

Having A Code of Ethics does NOT imply…

  • Judgement
  • “Policing”
  • Arbitration
  • Bureaucracy
  • Administration
  • Legal Issues

However… Having A Code of Ethics DOES imply…

  • Ethics, and
  • Offers the opportunity to live by them, and
  • Lead by Example

So, why not create and adopt a Code of Ethics? Not something to be “enforced;” rather, one to be embraced and exemplified voluntarily?

Such a code; proudly held and lived by membership, stands to contribute to transformation by example; colleague-to-colleague, encouraging one another to take the high road of honor and respect when conflicts or obstacles occur.

As George W. Bush said at the opening of the African American Museum on September 16, 2016 (and I surprise even myself by quoting GWB, but here it is…);

“A great nation does not hide its history,

it faces its flaws, and corrects them.” 

Sweeping these problems under the rug is no small part of what got us here. Perhaps we can work toward correcting our own failings by facing them, acknowledging them and exemplifying what is Right.

’Tis possible; n’est-çe pas?

Perhaps a task force created to study and recommend…



Still popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Seriously: Free. IKR?! Read it.

A TEAchable Moment?


If a business fails in the Desert…

…and the reasons are not addressed; will it happen again?


Tonight; the largest, most respected organization of its kind in the world – conceived and created more than 25 years ago and comprised of thousands of the most creative, accomplished, productive, innovative and even legendary men and women in these industries – is bestowing annual, glowing acknowledgement on the most exemplary accomplishments of the year just passed.

Born of a very real need to work together to nurture and build an international association of creators of experience – and, by design, to protect these independent business people, small businesses, individual artists and artisans from being victimized and having advantage taken by the Vast and Powerful, by those of Big Money, by the Dominant (who have since become, coincidentally, active members) – this association has become respected worldwide, is the “go-to” entity in these industries for new knowledge, for sourcing the best in the business, for building teams and leading projects in every country on the planet.

The Experts, the Leaders, the Setters of Standards and Practices. That’s us.

Tonight, this organization is giving one of its highest awards to a company and a project that, by refusing to live up to its own contracts, by failing to pay the vendors, creative and production, who have delivered this project to such high standards, has egregiously risked the financial security – indeed the very existence – of a number of our own members.

How have we come to this?

This is not a New Thing, and has been going on for decades. For so long, the big boys in the business may have wryly griped about it over cocktails and dinner; though in the end, seem to have pretty much simply considered it a cost of doing business in these countries.

As the world has shrunk, however, and the number of small, independent, specialized craft, technical, design and management segments have become more specialized and to-the-project rather than living protected under a massively financed umbrella; this dynamic has persisted and the risk to the “little guys” has grown. Concomitantly, those who have become more and more vocal about the untoward business practices have been told to keep quiet in the interest of The Business, the stories are not reported and the incidents are swept under the proverbial rug.

Yesterday, during a presentation for the awardee, for the first time in…ever, the owner of one such small business currently having been put at great risk by this awardee stood up and, in open forum, asked when he and the rest of the unpaid vendors of this ostensibly finished and apparently award-winning project can expect to get paid.

The room fell silent. The CEO remained silent. The question went unanswered.

But. The conversation is now in the open.

The basic question: how can an organization that was founded to protect individuals and independent businesses overlook the damage being done to its membership and award the perpetrator for such a project?

Are we overlooking where lies our real value? In supporting the Big Money to the detriment of the people who actually do the work; is that not the opposite of nurturing an industry?

Don’t embarrass the <Name of Culture here>!!

The offline responses to this man’s plea, yesterday, were myriad; a mix of “don’t quote me” support and cautionary admonishment. “You don’t want to embarrass the “X,” you know; you may never see your money…”

I have two responses to this.

  1. You know what? He may not ever see his money. He may not ever have seen his money whether he raised the issue or not. But, if he didn’t raise the issue and never saw his money, he most definitely would not have been the last to suffer this fate.  Similar to coming out of any Closet: the first ones to stand up most often pay the price for those that follow; but they open the door for those to follow. Without the courage of the first, all who follow will continue to suffer.
  2. Seriously. “Don’t embarrass the <company / person / culture>?” What sort of de facto acceptance of unacceptable behavior is that? If a businessperson comports himself (or herself) in such a way that public knowledge of that conduct would be embarrassing; how is the person who calls out the transgressor doing that embarrassing? The embarrassed has embarrassed himself. If it’ll embarrass you, don’t do it! Pretty easy stuff…unless one isn’t interested in integrity, honor or doing business in a manner of which s/he can be proud.

Our Industry Press

One of the biggest problems is our industry press. For the most part, essentially reprinting Press Releases from the public relations arm of owner companies; these publications virtually never actually investigate and report. If a writer attempts to actually share underlying truths, editors or marketing departments seem to stand in the way. Thus, in the name of Client Relations, they only print positive stories.

…At least, until the press releases finally begin to acknowledge the billion-dollar-shortfalls which, I would offer, might have been avoided were candor to have been a larger part of the earliest and ongoing conversations.

The vast amounts of money, the billions of dollars lost and wasted, is painful to the philanthropist in me. How great would it be were these monies to be pointed toward the quality of the human condition, of life on the planet.

One can dream…

That being said; it’s understandable how a selection committee ostensibly in possession only of the “facts” of a project by way of our industry press and through the presentation of the nominee might not be aware of the downside or dark side of a given project.

If anything, this is an egregious flaw in the system. Beyond that, perhaps Selection Committees could be more open and responsive to membership from the divisions in that part of the world for informed enlightenment.

Being a part of a free press does have some risks; especially in “client-supported” publication. Meaning, effectively, that we don’t have an industry based free press.

Something to consider.

What Price: Self Interest in the Short Term?

So why don’t Principals in and of our industries uphold fact and truth when the sharing of fact and truth is in direct conflict with the vision or intent of a potential or current client? The answer most often cited is generally, “…there will always be someone who will take the work and the money and get out; so, why not me?”

How is this in any way healthy for an industry? Is it conceivable that an association united under its Code of Ethics could make a positive, worldwide difference by embracing and living such a Code? Enforcement by peer pressure?

Just as enlightenment doth grow in other areas and industries: the bottom line in any question of conduct or integrity is that if one knows of and does nothing, one is complicit.

Speaking of a Code of Ethics

In a search of the website for our association; I was unable to find specific reference to a Code, Ethics or a Code of Ethics…there is a Best Practices series, though that seems aimed at specific disciplines rather than the overall responsibilities of doing business.

Perhaps simply featuring on the website what is expected of membership with respect to responsibilities of doing business and respect for one another might go a long way toward communicating the importance of integrity in business from the POV of the association.

“We Aren’t the Police!”

Currently, our association tends to meet such situations with an I-Can’t-Get-Involved, knee-jerk reaction; running and distancing from any sort of intra-membership conflict. IMHO, this doesn’t jibe with an organization that openly claims to watch out for one another.

What is the point of a Code of Ethics if it isn’t respected and supported? If members cannot adhere to a level of standards and respectable practices; then, should they continue to be Members?

This, then, is the opportunity for evolution. For recalibration. For self-examination and commitment to what we claim to and can be.

This is not a call for an Arbitration Board or Judgement panel or anything of the sort. Rather, this is an opportunity for the evolution of how we live and do business under the umbrella of such a Code.

When a member company, client or advisee is seen to perhaps be crossing a line, how is it not apropos for a call from a respected colleague; simply saying, “buddy, perhaps you might sit down with this person with whom you are in conflict and see if you might be able to work something out; learn what each of you may not know…” and work to eradicate the “So, Sue Me!” mentality.

And, if we can’t sister-to-brother, brother-to-brother or sister-to-sister encourage the embracing of responsible, respectful practice; perhaps we shouldn’t have a Code of Ethics at all.

This is not a call for public banishments and pogroms. Sought, rather, is the personal, private, individual-based embracing of the High Road in all things. Yes; there may be a short-term price for stepping up and “…Going High”. In the long-term, however, and taking the High road, we build a business and industry based in integrity, truth and respect.

Just two days ago, this association opened a dynamic conversation on #BlindersOff, #TimesUp and #WhatsNext? If we can discuss and offer perspective on subjects at this level of resonance and empowerment with and among ourselves, our clients and vendors; surely we have the spine to address Getting People Paid and Keeping One’s Word.

Just sayin’…

Can we live, lead and do business by example? We have the spotlight and the cache; let us find a way to embrace that … and make money at the same time. I cannot accept that this is not possible.



Still popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Seriously: Free. IKR?! Read it.