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Understanding Rule Bending:  The Devaluation of Compliance in the DOD. Ethics Partnership Meeting Markkula Center, Santa Clara University January 23, 2007 Dr. Leslie Sekerka Naval Postgraduate School Graduate School of Business & Public Policy Monterey, CA USA.

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understanding rule bending the devaluation of compliance in the dod

Understanding Rule Bending: The Devaluation of Compliance in the DOD

Ethics Partnership Meeting

Markkula Center, Santa Clara University

January 23, 2007

Dr. Leslie Sekerka

Naval Postgraduate School

Graduate School of Business & Public Policy

Monterey, CA USA

the presentation discussion
The Presentation & Discussion
  • Motivation for the inquiry
  • Research questions & study
  • Implications
  • Take-aways for non-DOD orgs
dod organizational context
DOD Organizational Context
  • Ongoing transformation
  • Cost-wise readiness
  • Increased number of missions (tasks)
  • Faster pace
  • Fewer resources

…Observance of rule bending*

*Cave, 2005

ethical dilemmas
Ethical Dilemmas

*Separate category, not double counted.

well designed rules anticipate
Well designed rules anticipate…
  • Conditions for exceptions
  • Changes to environment
  • Potential misinterpretation
  • Conflicts with other rules
  • Impacts on behavior (creation of norms)

In the DOD, rules have become more specific and so numerous, it makes it more difficult to adhere to them.

is it legal to rb
Is it Legal to RB?
  • Rules in the DOD (FAR/DFAR) are the law
  • DOD 5000: mission accomplishment is considered performance excellence
  • Guidance on how take action outside the rules is limited
  • Compliance is an officer’s duty (take orders, but also follow regulations)
is it ethical to rb
Is it Ethical to RB?
  • Leaders modeling the behavior
  • Creation of social and org norms
  • May contribute to a climate of obfuscation, denial, or rationalization

Can rule bending deplete the value of compliance?

research questions
Research Questions
  • When and why do people bend the rules?
  • Is prudential judgment used in decisions to rule bend?
  • When people say they rule bend, do they loose value in (or regard for) the rules?
rule bending
Rule bending
  • Choosing not to adhere to stated precepts
  • Decision to not adhere is outside the boundary of their authority
  • Employee makes a decision/choice
prudential judgment
Prudential Judgment
  • Reason
    • Practical deliberation
  • Right action
    • Consideration of others
the study
The Study
  • SR DOD managers/military officers
  • Open ended questions
  • Grounded theory/qualitative analysis*
    • ID scenarios
    • ID motives
    • ID use of prudential judgment
  • Follow up focus groups (4)

*Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Ragin, 1994

results rb scenarios sample 60 case 10
Results: RB Scenarios (Sample = 60; case = 10)
  • The color of money
  • Flex time
  • Split orders (A)
  • Spend before year end
  • Work before funds arrive
  • Hide non-performers
  • Ignore classified procedures
results rb avoidance scenarios
Results: RB Avoidance Scenarios
  • Supplier gifts
  • Performing tests
  • Split orders (B)

* Ten cases analyzed using comparative method; yes/no based on overall response, determined through coder agreement.

findings suggest
Findings Suggest…
  • When RB is viewed as a small threat to org, it is more likely exercised.
  • When RB is viewed as a large threat to the org, it is more likely avoided.
  • When RB is considered necessary to achieve task accomplishment, it is more likely viewed as a small threat.
  • When personal motives influence decisions, those not related to personal values, RB is more likely viewed as a small threat.*
  • Org contexts where RB has become an accepted norm, may deplete the value of compliance…unless prudential judgment is exercised.

* For example, desire to leave early, achieve personal success, to avoid hassle.

implications devaluation of compliance
Implications:Devaluation of Compliance
  • RB is viewed as a small threat to org
  • Sustained press for task accomplishment
  • Absence of explicit personal ethics/values, and more focus on personal motives*
  • Lack of prudential judgment in decision-making

= Less value in compliance

*A promotion focus, e.g., task completion or a prevention focus, e.g., stay out of trouble.

take aways
Take Aways?
  • Corp ethics programs need to include both (a) rule and compliance awareness and (b) ethics as decision-making (competency development/support).
  • Prudential judgment (discernment, deliberation, and consideration of others) is targeted as a skill that is developed/honed in the workplace.*
  • Emphasis on ethical responsibility must include the application of both organizational and personal ethics/values.
  • Doing it legally is not the test, it’s about what is appropriate and what is ethical.*
  • What else?

* This may also foster awareness that RB can be an org threat; cf Hansen, 2006.