What is Integrity
Integrity is the principal value attribute, like a foundation to a building, which nurtures, supports and sustains other important elements of work related excellences-from good execution practices to prudent management decisions.
Singularly put it denotes ‘Moral Uprightness’ while literally, Integrity synonymises honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honour, honourableness, upstandingness, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness, unity, unification, wholeness, coherence, cohesion, undividedness, togetherness, solidarity, coalition and many more.
Let’s not get bogged down with verbose above, Integrity is, simply put, doing right thing always.
One example: We know, I vouch it from engineering perspective, that all the roads we use every day must be smooth, free from dips & depressions, ideally curved but we seldom find them that way, perfectly laid. Note it, material and efforts consumed to construct an ideal road or less than perfect one is same. What diverges this, is lack of Integrity of person or people responsible to deliver it, which manifests in poor supervision or low-quality ingredient or many such other reasons.
Projects fail, and they fail frequently. The records of time and cost over-runs are horrifically miserable, across the globe. Billions of dollars of public money are wasted owing to these over-runs. These causes, of project failures, can be clubbed into two groups, apparent and intrinsic.
Apparent causes may be, hundreds of them actually but to name a few, faulty and creepy scope determination, faulty time and cost estimation, poor management practices, faulty designs, incompetent and inadequate manpower, external factors and so on.
Intrinsic cause is always one, lack of Integrity of people involved to deliver. All apparent causes, noted above, are nothing but exhibition of varying degree of Integrity compromises at various stages and in various forms. A faulty design results because someone in the delivery process has failed to put in adequate efforts. Scope creeps because someone in start of it, hasn’t baselined it. Poor quality of works results because someone accepts and approves it. Incompetent workers deliver inconsistent results, this is obvious, but someone recruited them at the first-place conceding their Integrity.
Projects are failed, not because they’re meant to be that way, but people, the responsible ones, fail them, many a times knowingly and a few times otherwise. It’s a harsh statement. Yes, but behind all apparent causes there’s one and only one cause, that is compromised Integrity of people.
Type of Integrity
Let’s categorize levels of Integrity with an attendance machine example. Interestingly such a work-place attendance machine must have been invented only because there were low Integrity workers. They, people with dismal Integrity, are always there, from time immemorial, from head-counts days to muster-rolls to modern day biometric controlled access systems.
1. Impeccable Integrity: People who come on time, work designated hours (all of them) to what they are paid for, and leave on time. 100% dedication, not even slightest of detour, is exhibited by these folks. They may be in scarcity but they are there- we would not have traveled to Moon, traversed Mars and achieved innumerable accomplishments, across the history of mankind, without these individuals of impeccable Integrity.
2. Outstanding Integrity: People who come on time, work designated hours completing their assignments and also getting some time for themselves without harming the organization’s interests, and leave on time.
For all practical purposes, this Integrity level is best suited for achieving optimum results. Perfection is desirable, true, but perfection works well in a perfect world, not ours and not always.
3. Passing Integrity: People come on time, work minimal-enough to survive, mainly to show-off to whoever it matters, and leave on time. These creatures are survivors but not necessarily the fittest ones. We know, a sad reality in fact, to succeed in modern day professional environment one does not need impeccable or outstanding standards including Integrity, a mere minimal, as low as 40-60% of it suffice to not only survive but even shine provided one has outstanding networking and other sycophancy traits. No wonder people of this category are majorly assigned key responsibilities and play key roles in project failures.
4. Dubious Integrity: These folks punch-in on-time, and queue up minutes before exit time to punch-out and go, and in between do nothing for what they are paid for, instead they do everything otherwise like day long gossip sessions, work-place politics, spread negativity and adversely affecting co-workers too. Such people are found in aplenty, like almost in all societal milieu. They survive too not because they’re good but they are part of the chain of dubious characters, where they save one another and thrive together.
5. The Crook: They send someone else to punch-in and punch-out for them. Or, if they have to themselves, they come for punch-in, go back to places other than work-place, do their own works or whatever and come back to punch-out. Nobody likes them, but somebody still keeps them in the flock.
We are not born with integrity, though genetics must be playing role too, but we develop it along with our value ecosystem inculcated mainly in growing years. Parents, and society at large, play vital role to imbue this trait. Once a kid is told, never to steal or pilfer anything, it starts with a pencil normally, irrespective of material value that kid when grown up would never take office stationary to home.
For work place, especially to have an environment of high Integrity, individual Integrity standards are not enough. It has to come from leadership which sustains only through leading by examples. Not even a month goes by when, somewhere around the world, some leaders of business, politics or society, are not caught indulging in act of compromised Integrity. We are so surrounded with CEOs overstating their prospective earnings or botching up P&L statement, sportsmen taking performance enhancing drugs, builders delivering low-quality products while over charging for it, a sales rep faking product features, and so on. It generally comes from top. On a positive side, there are organizations of impeccable Integrity standards sustaining for longer times both in reputation and making profit. A little research in fact shows that high Integrity is synonymous to not only sustainability of a business but it also enhances profitability. Integrity is indeed a profitable attribute.
Building Integrity is simple but not easy. Simple, for we know what is right and we have to keep on doing it ‘always’; not easy, for it increases work, demands sacrifices at least for short terms which generally no one likes. Culture, industry background, geopolitical environment and organization’s policy framework play a role in shaping up work-place Integrity standards.
Here’s a list of to-do acts, not exhaustive one though, related to individual’s Integrity-
1. Communication is vital. If you are in management, keep your employees informed so they know what is coming and do not get sudden-shocks.
2. Keep your words, honor your commitments, and be responsible. Do what you say you will do.
3. Don’t claim credit for the work of another employee, or fail to give public credit to a co-worker's contribution.
4. Work when you are supposed to and save socializing, snacking, searching the Internet and personal phone calls for break time.
5. When part of a team, behave as part of it which entails sharing responsibilities, celebrating other’s success and sharing teammates’ mistakes.
6. Don’t be greedy. Greed and selfishness are major obstacles to trust and Integrity.
7. Don’t gossip, never criticize someone in his/her absence. Show respect to co-workers with appropriate conversation and empathy.
8. Follow company policies and procedures.
9. Use company materials for work and not for personal use. Never steal supplies from the workplace.
10. If you make a mistake, accept it. Don’t search for scapegoats.
11. If you find yourself in a conflict of interest, remember, organization’s interest are paramount.
12. If your company insists you to do something against your Integrity standards, refuse. If it means losing a job, let it be. There is no dearth of ethical company to work for.
13. Don’t lie. Not even for reasons you think are trivial, like taking sick leave while you are not, because it’s a beautiful day and you decide to go to the beach, or shopping.
14. Do not treat your subordinate unfairly, not even indulging in special relationship or interest with a reporting staff member and then provide special treatment to your interest.
15. Avoid people of dubious integrity. Crookedness is contagious.
Like in land surveying, fundamental principle is to work from ‘whole to part’ (not part to whole), integrity is concept of wholeness. A person of impeccable Integrity exhibits his/her such qualities not only to work-place alone but in all spheres of life. It is so common, people coming from families of high value system exhibit such values in work place too even in absence of an organizational system. Alternatively, a crook will be crook not only at work-place but to society in general too.
It is safe to say, having and promoting an environment of Integrity, hence, is important for work places, and society at large. In the long term, as we say in investing parlance, staying the course, as in case of Integrity, pays well, pays well definitely.