Thursday, 18 March 2010

If products, ideas and results are not spreading and being adopted then maybe you need to do an ethics check

The most frequent issue people contact me about is "my project results or project methods are not spreading to other places / are not being adopted by other people". A key reframing here is to ask the question "Why isn't my xxx being spread and adopted?". This is the first step in figuring out the problem - and solution.

I wrote a book a few years ago that faced this issue and provided some ideas to get round it. One topic not covered in detail in the book though one I have since reflected on is that of ethics.

House (1980) provides a list of ethical mistakes which include:

Clientism; this is when we are so focused, as facilitators, project managers and consultants, that we do what the client wants rather than a deeper investigation into what problem needs to be solved. This is prevalent in healthcare where there are multiple clients or where facilitators are unable to take the difficult discussions and fall back on making their clients happy. Any consultant can make their client happy - can they help their client solve identified problems, even if it means walking away or referring on if they are not the best person to help? Projects which have been implemented to serve one specific client are unlikely to be adopted by others as they instinctively feel the solution does not meet their own need.

Methodologicalism; assuming that following a ethnically correct method is the same as being ethical. This is an interesting issue for the spread and adoption of guidelines. Different professionals may have alternative interpretation of the ethics are different parts of the guidelines. This conflict results in the oft heard "this won't work here" or "this won't work for my patient". On solution is to discuss and be transparent about the ethical paradoxes involved.

Elitism; giving the most powerful the strongest voice. This is a concern for the development of solutions and introduction of change methods. The most powerful and loudest voice may not be the most connected to the context in which they are requiring change. Potential adopters may instinctively push back against what they perceive are "loud voices". Or they may try to make the changes to keep the "loud voices" at bay and only partially gain the benefits. This issue is also linked to the concept of "inventoritis" which was the subject of an earlier post.

To what extent are your spread and adoption issues linked to ethical dilemmas?

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