Improving the performance of organisations can be a painstaking process, and as human beings we regularly behave in ways that can thwart all efforts to enact change.


Improving the performance of organisations can be a painstaking process and as human beings we regularly behave in ways that can thwart all efforts to enact change. One rigorous and effective method for enacting change is based on the concept of integrity. The model was recently introduced to our business by a dear colleague of mine. In doing so she drew upon a Harvard Business School Negotiation, Organizations and Markets Research Paper titled: “A New Model of Integrity: The Missing Factor of Production”. The paper comprises a Keynote and PowerPoint slides of a One-Day Executive Program Seminar delivered at Olin School of Business Washington, University on March 23, 2010.


The paper is drawn from work by Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen and Steve Zaffron in creating a new model of integrity: “Integrity: A Positive Model that Incorporates the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics and Legality” and is available at


The framework offers “An Actionable Pathway to Dramatic Increases in Individual and Organisational Performance” – a significant claim.


The stated objective of the original Workshop upon which the Paper is based, was to provide the participants and their respective organisations with access to the causal link between integrity and superior performance, quality of life, value creation and competitive advantage.


Integrity, in this sense, is defined as a state or condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound and in perfect condition. Integrity is distinguished as a matter of a person’s (or an organisation’s) word being whole and complete. One’s word is whole and complete when one honours one’s word.


Further, keeping one’s word is distinguished from honouring one’s word. Honouring one’s word, as defined, means either “….keeping your word or as soon as you know you will not, you say that you will not, and cleaning up any mess you cause by not keeping your word. Thus, even when you do not keep your word, you have a way to maintain your integrity.”


Honouring one’s word provides a powerful and actionable pathway to earning the trust of others.


A couple of key points to what your appetite for this material:

The Workshop PowerPoint presentation was created with rigorously written sentences and paragraphs. The intended method of delivery comprises reading these directly from the screen to the participants as they silently read along – interrupted by the presenter making comments on and offering examples of what it says on the slide, and by questions from and discussions with participants. This is purported to result in a more than 40% increase in comprehension of the material by the participants. This was the – in my experience – very method employed by my colleague in passing this material onto us. Accordingly, I would highly recommend those with an interest in this material to go to source via


With respect to Values, the work is not an examination of normative values, that is, it is not about good or bad, or right or wrong, and it is not a discussion of morality. Whilst legitimate from other perspectives, the work is not concerned with Integrity as a normative value (ie. being right or good). The principles are put forward not because they are “right”, but simply because they are in each individual’s personal self-interest and in each organisation’s corporate self-interest.


As a simple example of how this framework is brought to life in an organisation, we recently experienced the symptoms of ineffective communication within our team in providing feedback on a controversial business initiative. We are all familiar with the ease with which mobile phone and email technology enables messages to spiral out of control. As time passes it becomes increasingly difficult to isolate the source of concerns and address the issue(s). Applying the Integrity framework (the “pathway” to restoring integrity) in this circumstance comprises each individual seeking to restore their integrity by answering the following 4 questions:

  1. Who came to whom regarding the broken agreement? (ie identifying the behaviour which occurred outside the agreement)
  2. What agreement was broken? (in this case an agreement regarding to whom to provide feedback)
  3. What is the impact of the lack of integrity? (in this case a train of “Chinese whispers” and a resultant undermining of the management structure)
  4. What will you do in the future to avoid such a lack of integrity? (self-responsibility is the key here)


This work has also been extended in proposing a structure For Honouring Your Word and Bringing Integrity to Your Life. This structure provides a means for altering what is one of the toughest habits of all to address: Your habit of trying to get it all done. Powerful stuff!


Has this article been helpful? Please comment below or send me an email. I am always excited to hear from people making it happen!

Peter Wilkinson

BE (Mech), MBA