Code of Business Conduct

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A Fortune 500 corporate newsletter I was recently reading mentioned that their Code of Business Conduct was 70-pages long. The code outlined their requirements and guidelines for customer relationships as well as how the employees should interact with each other. Business ethics and customer experience strategies are not optional and should not be treated lightly; but are 70-pages really necessary to frame a Code of Conduct? After all, the Golden Rule is only 11-words long:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Hmmm … also consider the following:

The Lord’s Prayer = 66 words

Gettysburg Address = 286 words

Declaration of Independence = 1,322 words

The more I think about it, 1-page should be long enough.

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Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Alan: your post reminds me of what I learned about the writings of Hippocrates and his students. The Corpus contains 58 volumes, and much of the content surrounds ethics. On the one hand, that seems remarkable given the technology-induced ethical complexities we face in medicine today, compared to the time the Corpus was written. On the other hand, it’s not difficult to imagine how the myriad ethical issues the ancients confronted about life, death, and the treatment of disease required such extensive documentation and analysis.

    Similarly, laws and regulations cover only a small portion of the rules of conduct people must consider for a commercial transaction. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the document you referenced was 70 pages long. The other documents you mentioned–influential writings, all–don’t serve the same mission, so it’s hard to compare their merit on word count.

    –AR

  2. Andy

    It is a fact of life that complex, other-worldly stuff gets ignored in favour of simple, common sense stuff. If any company needs 70 pages to set out its policy towards customers, then it is a tacit admission that it has a serious problem that a fat manual is not going to resolve. You don’t need a 70 pager to know how to deal with your customers. Neither do I. And neither does any other company.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
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  3. I believe Graham is spot on.

    From “Churchill on Leadership” by Steven F. Hayward:

    He complained regularly that reports and memoranda were too verbose:

    “This paper, he complained in cabinet one day, “by its very length defends itself against the risk of being read.”

    He also stated that “It is sheer laziness not compressing thought into a reasonable space.”

    In my opinion, a 70-page document does indeed “defend itself against the risk of being read.” If the purpose of the document is to help employees understand how they should be treating customers, suppliers, and each other then it needs to be much shorter. If the purpose of the document is for legal reasons, then 70-pages are probably only enough for the introduction.

    Alan See

    LinkedIn Profile:
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/alansee
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