Making an actionable Ethical Infrastructure Plan
The output for our Ethics Minimum Viable Product ended up wildly different from the philosophical fever dreams I’d assumed I was in for when we started. With some guidance, legwork, and reinvention, we came up with an actionable plan.
A big part of this for me was considering where in our processes ethics should be considered and how best to make sure we don’t have a big gap.
Regular Intervals of Time
Putting together a full-day all-employee ethics review of ethical questions raised over the past year, both in our work and in our industries will both keep us honest about what is and isn’t working and offer an opportunity to re-commit focus on our ethics program. Making a space where we can workshop our responses to these questions and our other ethical infrastructure processes can help us keep it from getting stale and falling out of relevance as our company changes.
An Ethics Review Board of external folks means we can have another set of minds reviewing any ethical points made by our internal team and make challenges and recommendations that we may be too close to the issues to come up with, internally.
I was once at a place that had a value focus every week, and it really did bring those aspects of the business into our everyday chat. Doing this monthly as a start will give us an opportunity to really embed it in our thinking.
Thinking in terms of time cycle, I really found that the in-betweens made me itchy- an Ethics channel in our Slack devoted to discussion of concerns is now set up and always open to receive feedback that will be reviewed at least weekly by leadership, quarterly by the ethics review board, and yearly by the entire company
In each project proposal, we’ll include a check-in text field with each company value, so the person suggesting the project has a spot to verify how the project aligns or might not align with our values.
Stage gates for project life cycles include an assigned Ethical Dilemma reviewer sign-off to proceed. Right now this person is me, but eventually we will maybe have someone trained externally to consider these.
An ethics agreement specific to each contract will be included when dealing with other organizations
Before entering into a business agreement with another organization, an assigned ethics reviewer (again, just me for now, but eventually we’ll have internal folks with a special interest in this) investigates and signs off on them as consistent with our values or flags the deal for reconsideration
Our commitments to and priority on ethics and our values will clearly be stated in all job postings, applications, and at least 10% of interview time is spent on these topics. I think that signalling to potential hires from the start that this is a priority for us will help set the tone and allow those not interested in working for a company with our priorities self-select out.
All new team members receive a copy of our action plan and have an informational ethics training session on their first day with the content of our values and ethics 101. Their second week they have an ethics training session on procedural ethics at our company including our ethics infrastructure action plan, and how to ask questions about ethical dilemmas in our system. Their third week, they have an ethics training session with the team where they engage in a discussion of our ethics program and how we can improve it and any ethical dilemmas they want to discuss.
At our yearly overview, we publically offer awards for ethical queries and value-inspired behaviors
Metrics for review, promotion, and compensation increases include ethical queries and value-inspired behaviors
Leadership is trained to recognize and publically share appreciation for ethical queries and value-inspired behaviors
It’s certainly not perfect- it’s just the next step in the early days of our ethics journey, but having a starting place, a structure, and a tangible commitment has built ethical considerations and discussions into the fabric of our business.
I look forward to seeing where all this goes!
Here is the general tool I have to use the ideas found throughout this series.
Want to join a small group of folks knee-deep in tech ethics to chat, share resources, and challenge each other?