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The work of the board is complex, as much or more moral than it is strate- gic or compliance-driven. The foggy uncertainty cannot be replaced by clarity, and ethics training for directors needs to recognise that. Ethics training needs to focus on the development of personal integrity and on the integrity of the decision process. Courage, reflection and moral imagination are important in ethical development in many situations, not only for board members, but board member training has to recognise the peculiar power relationships and the moral responsibility to the aims and sustain- ability of the enterprise which make the board member role distinctive.


Throughout this chapter the focus has been on the board member, and consistent with that the chapter ends with a restatement of the conclusions in a practitioner-focused form:

• Ethics at the board level is less about knowledge and skill than it is about personal integrity, and training that focuses on compliance leaves a large area untouched.

• Much of the responsibility for the ethical development of board members rests with the board members themselves as they seek to better under- stand their values and beliefs. The practice of critical reflection is one way of examining one's values and beliefs.

• There is often a reluctance to raise ethical issues at the board table, and

courage may be called for to bring the ethical element of a decision to the fore. Tools are available to help individuals develop a greater pro- pensity towards courageous behaviour.

• Ethics is learnt through practice and example. These should be a focus of all training and development activities.

• The Balanced Experiential Inquiry process and the Giving Voice to

Values programme can be used to raise the capability of individuals and organisations to discuss ethical issues.

• Structured meeting processes, such as the Devil's Advocate decision

making process, can assist the development of integrity in decision making, but it will be ineffective without training.

• Responsibility for board member training ought to lie with the board, not with an external provider or internal function.


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A Case Study Method

In preparation for discussion of the case ask yourself the following questions:

• Who benefited from the incidents? Who was disadvantaged?

• Can you identify occasions in the case where it was difficult to work out what was the morally best course of action and others where the proper course of action was clear but the difficulty was to do it?

• What arguments might be used to justify the action in question?

• What seemed to be the basis for ethical decision making, was it following the rules, seeking the greatest good, respect for relationships …?

• Who are the 'stakeholders' in the incidents?

• What recent local incidents can you identify which raise similar ethical issues?

• What was (were) the moral issue(s) here?

Answering these questions facilitates the use of the case as an effective learning exercise.The questions help to identify facts about the case, to elicit information about the situation for use in discussion. Once this has been broadly agreed the discussion can move to a second step to discuss the ethical issues involved, to understand the story, the characters involved and to analyse the ethical issues, the responses of the people involved, and to compare these with our own values and responses. Emotion and will are part of the ethical equation as well as reason, and discussion of the case allows for these to be explored.The question about similar situations extends the analysis into a third phase which can enhance the real world relevance and introduce examples of honourable behaviour, beyond the formal case materials. Examples can come from personal experience, the news media, film and television drama, and business history, providing additional real life relevance and may include examples where individuals have behaved honourably.

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