A Code of Ethics for Six Sigma Change Management

Jeff Cole

Whether we realize it or not, we are all agents of change in our organizations. If you happen to be a Six Sigma Sponsor, Champion, Master Black Belt, Black Belt or Green Belt, you have a responsibility to do all that is within your power to make your Six Sigma process changes as efficiently and effectively as possible. This often involves actions and communications that serve to alter your target audience’s perceptions of the upcoming process change.

Adopting a Code of Ethics: An Enlightened Approach to Six Sigma Change Management

Certainly one approach is to ignore the human side of a change and "bulldoze" right over the organization with your process changes (what one consulting firm referred to as "brute force implementation"). Perhaps a more enlightened approach is to utilize the array of tools within your Six Sigma Change Management toolkit, giving serious consideration to the human impacts of any disruptive process change. Some of your change management tools are simple and can be used at a moment’s notice without a great deal of forethought. The use of other change management tools deserves the same consideration and care as using a loaded weapon. Organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the American Society for Quality (ASQ) have member codes of ethics. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for those executing process change management to consider such a code to govern the use of their specialized skill sets especially given the level of impact they can have on organizations and individuals.

Why bother with a code of ethics? The audience perspective and behavior-altering techniques available to you and your colleagues include burning platforms, the ladder of inference, reframing techniques, influence mapping, profiling using DISC, FIRO-B, Paul Moc or Myers-Briggs to name several, or even tactically using NLP, NAC or a host of other influence tools. These are powerful techniques with the potential for misuse. Any puffery or insincere/cavalier use of these tools may result in a short term win for the user, but can readily torpedo a reputation or damage an entire Six Sigma effort once the truth is realized.

My Offered Code of Ethics for Successful Six Sigma Change Management

That said (and borrowing heavily from PMI and ASQ) the following Code of Ethics is offered for general consideration by those who are orchestrating major change in your organization.
  • We seek to use our knowledge and skills for the enhancement of the organization.
  • We do not exercise the power of our expertise or position to influence the decisions or actions of others in order to benefit personally at their expense.
  • We do not engage in communications or behavior designed to deceive others, including but not limited to, making misleading statements, stating half-truths, providing information out of context or withholding information that, if known, would render our statements as misleading or incomplete.
  • We perform services only within our areas of competence.
  • We seek to understand the organizational culture so as to avoid engaging in behaviors perceived as disrespectful.
  • We listen with empathy and seek first to understand others’ points of view.
  • We behave professionally even when it is not reciprocated.
  • We avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest.
  • When we make errors or omissions, we take ownership and make prompt corrections.
  • We apply the rules of the organization without favoritism or prejudice.

The list could go on and on, but this hopefully can serve as a starting point for a dialogue in your organization. As situations present themselves, there will be responses that are clearly right and those that are clearly wrong. These codes of ethics serve to guide us in the gray areas between right and wrong. I’d invite you to tee up several thorny change-related scenarios for your team and discuss how your guiding principles would aid your response decisions.

For more information on the ASQ Code of Ethics, please visit: http://www.asq.org/about-asq/who-we-are/ethics.html.

For further information on the PMI Code of Ethics, please visit: