Consulting for Organisations: An Overview
Whistleblowing is a management problem whose interface situation puts very complex demands on all involved. Consultation in this field helps in establishing structures to reduce complexity. You can find an overview of this approach in the articles on this web site. For a more in-depth treatment you can refer to the publications of Björn Rohde-Liebenau or get in touch directly.
Every company which has experienced a case of external whistleblowing from A to Z even once and which has then honestly assessed the consequences will confirm that costs easily total above 100,000€. For a publicly visible case, total costs will usually reach far into the 7-digit range and it is not only the small or medium size companies whose existence can be threatened consequentially. Therefore any constructive preventative measure, and in particular the structural consultation suggested here, will pay for itself. This outlook at the costs for the affected organisation is certainly not meant to belittle the personal and consequential costs to the external whistleblower whose existence is practically always threatened. At a certain stage of escalation s/he will rightly say: ”I've lost my health and wealth.” The approach followed here seeks to prevent just these unbearable consequences.
The complexity of the subject is largely due to the fact that in this field affected organisations are subject to divergent and partly even contradictory requirements. One example from the obviously most directly concerned area, the risk management: Every company owes its very existence, to the fact that risks are being accepted - whether consciously or unconsciously. At the same time the legal entity owes its existence to the legal order and only within its confines are its manoeuvres legitimate. By definition it is therefore not one of the acceptable risks that a criminal offence would be committed from inside the company. Much rather this type of risk is unquestionably to be counted among the central and vital risks which cannot be left untreated.
It is a main feature in the complexity of risk management that risks are typically difficult to perceive, especially where the concrete risk has not already materialised in some way. Even where it has, it may always seem justifiable to deny any likelihood of reoccurrence. Furthermore, people in general and business owners in particular, tend to see opportunities - not risks. The concepts of opportunity and risk may seem mutually exclusive to the human mind and therefore often cannot be perceived simultaneously. This phenomenon aggravates communication about concrete opportunities or risks.
The complexities within personnel management similarly manifest themselves. Good personnel management, which means at least to realise where the employee is and how the communication in the organisation is actually structured, can eventually make whistleblowing superfluous or at least prevent escalation. On the other hand the personnel management can actually contribute via ”short circuits” to crisis situations, bring on an unnecessary escalation, and lead to a complete loss of trust.
The essence of what supports an improved internal risk communication also leads to improved Quality Management. Here the goal is to systematically optimise the production process. Quality management depends on information from all employees. Ultimately, the information needed for the quality management process may be identical with some of those in risk management. Production associated with unacceptable risks does not conform to quality management standards, as when, for example, criminal offences are committed. Obviously the two largely parallel paths of communication should be interconnected, since demanding the same type of information time and again can otherwise choke communication.
All large companies structure their Innovation Management. The ideas expected there are sometimes quite similar to the content of internal risk communication. Any recognition of impending risk can actually be the first step toward innovation or at least toward internal improvements, especially where the risk message is constructively combined with a proposal for improvement. On the other hand a company should become concerned and even expect a considerable whistleblowing potential where a department has long stopped making suggestions for improvements. An inquiry for improvement suggestions and into the causes of their lacking can be a first step to also improve internal risk communication. And obviously, the lack of innovative power is another risk in itself…
Even if it goes without saying, Crime Prevention, e.g. Prevention of Corruption, is a special responsibility of the management. If, for example, the sales department is left with the mistaken belief that to commit corruption abroad was not punishable at home and would be tolerated in order to promote sales, management takes on untenable risks and may itself be liable to prosecution. Wherever there is a danger that criminal offences may be committed from inside a company, even with ”best intentions,” the company should not just pay lip service to preventive measures, but should quite explicitly encourage employees to provide pertinent information if outside contacts seem corruptive. This is yet another good reason to introduce or improve on effective structures for risk communication.
Learning from Mistakes, or stated otherwise: well understood error friendliness in an organisation is another goal of the consultation approach introduced here. Where this has not been implemented early enough, crisis management and de-escalation may be called for. A comprehensive understanding of the whistleblowing phenomenon and its underlying communication structures is required in either case. To this purpose we offer Consultation, Seminars and Workshops or introductory Lectures.