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  • Sj. (Sjoerd) Vredenberg

Integrity management, preparation in calm weather

AuthorSj. (Sjoerd) Vredenberg

The domain of integrity is expanding with ethical standards that are set for behavioral manners, social aspects, sustainability, climate and environment. In the recent examples of incidents that made it to public stage, 'panic' and 'messy treatment' were recurring rather than incidental. Protocolizing can be part of improvement!


Closing a flood barrier, preparing the patient for open-heart surgery or releasing a section of track on the railway before immediate repairs can take place. Just a few examples in which actions to be performed, checks, decision trees to be completed and decisions about resources to be used are enforced according to strict and established rules and agreements. No exceptions, always to apply!

Even in times of crisis, it is nice being able to stay calm because the necessary response has been defined and tested in advance. Mistaking and lagging behind the facts will thus be prevented as much as possible!

Applying protocols contributes to the ability to determine the correctness, timeliness and completeness of the response afterwards. In all transparency!

The protocol, also known as: ‘mandatory procedure’.

Integrity management

Back to where this article started: the inadequate, almost panicking response to a number of recent integrity incidents.

There is no ready-made integrated solution for integrity management. It however does require an integrated view: knowing 'at front end' which integrity risks apply for you, and which not. On these risks, control is designed and executed.

Minimize the surprise!

With the abuses we read about in the newspaper, the unrest also had to do with the fact that 'at the back end' they were not prepared for the turbulent crisis situation. It sometimes seemed that the response to the incident had to be conceived while the incident was unfolding and storm was at worst.

The picture that emerged: errors piled up in protecting the involved;

many times it was unclear who would communicate, what and at what point in time;

decision-making about investigation to be started did not give the impression of well-thought-out logic...

It is especially here, ‘at the back side’, where protocolizing will be of value.

Prepare your (re)action in sunny and calm weather.

What can be prepared, protocolized

Much of ‘being prepared for storm’ you hope you will never need. But in the unlikely event it is nice if the preliminary work has been done…

Without claiming to be complete, you will find below a number of aspects that will benefit from protocolizing.


During crises clear communication lines are vital in getting your message across the stage. When it comes to managing integrity incidents, it is certainly possible to borrow from what has already been devised and what is ready for use in organizations in terms of communication protocols for other crises.

With regards to integrity incidents, it is advisable to distinguish between the different phases in which the crisis unfolds. An alleged abuse requires different communication than an established abuse: an alleged perpetrator is not yet a convict, a single suspicion does not make national news.

Needless to say that privacy protection in communication about integrity incidents benefits from proper protocolizing. After all, in most cases multiple persons are involved, in one way or another. This requires the utmost care in terms of protecting privacy.

Guidance and protection for those involved

Protocolizing will be of value in guiding and protecting those involved in an (alleged) integrity incident.

For example, in addition to direct victims and (alleged) perpetrators, think of close colleagues and indirectly affected people.

Guidance and protection of those involved look different in one phase of the incident relative to the other. This again argues for differentiated protocolizing.

Guidance and protection with integrity of every person involved in an (alleged) integrity incident benefit from well-thought-out protocols.

Decision making about investigation

We saw in 'files' that we know from the media that decision-making about starting and conducting investigation deserves better preparation.

Protocols to this end can ensure that the decision on whether or not to start an investigation (and if so, which investigation) is taken on the right grounds, at the right time and by the right people responsible.

These protocols can also contribute to ensuring that contract awarding and acceptance take place with complete integrity and transparency. This is only possible when the assignment formulation (what will and will not be investigated), sufficient freedom to execute and the agreed preconditions are clear.

Finally, these protocols could support that (alongside the main question whether the alleged incident actually took place) root cause and impact analysis will also be executed.

Demonstrability of sound decision-making about investigation to be started, awarded and accepted wins with careful protocolizing.

Conducting investigation

For the various forms of investigation, it is recommended to also protocolize their implementation. For example, there should be no doubt about the degree of responsible conduct of the investigation. This also applies to safeguarding confidentiality of interviews with those involved and the adequate use of adversarial hearing. In addition, good preparation will help in involving an investigation field as broad as necessary, and in the way of reporting.

Proper protocolizing will contribute to a sound conduct of investigation and the justification of it.

Well-thought-out 'preparation in calm weather' will limit the collateral damage of an integrity incident...

For the print version of this article, click here.


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