Imagine you are in a meeting with 5-8 people. It’s a development meeting, early in the product cycle. Maybe it is a sprint planning session, with ideas flowing from the group about how to approach the problem. You can feel the energy and excitement of the fully engaged team members, with each suggestion bringing about a better solution. The team has brought its best ideas to the table and collectively shaped them, and the meeting is about to wrap up.
But, is your solution ethical? Is it “ok” for your customers, or employees? How can you know? Aren’t these questions for the lawyers and people that don’t do the real development work? Most of us in this function/space aren’t used to asking these questions, and our tools don’t account for ethical debates. How can we do it?
In my last blog, I laid out a simple framework that anyone can use to answer basic ethical questions and prevent one’s work from becoming morally questionable. The key to using this tool is to apply it easily within our usual work processes.
Let’s start with the simple “use case” creation. Use some form of “as a ___ (user, manager, etc.)__, I want to ___X__ so that __Y__.”
Now consider the following questions in the context of this role: “and we can answer each one of our Framework questions” (see last blog)
- Is this work (project) illegal in any country?
- Does this work respect the dignity of all people?
- Is this work something that is sustainable?
- Does this work foster transparency, and honesty?
- Does this work require people to think about potential harm or good to them?
- Can I do this and tell my family about it proudly?
- Can we describe the balance between good use and harm?
- Does this protect and respect the moral rights of our customers, users, vendors or employees?
- Are we treating everyone fairly?
Here’s a classic view of a use case list, with our Framework added.
My intent is to provide tools that are simple adjustments for people involved in creative development, whether writing software, creating marketing material, or developing new products. The tools must be very easy to apply, otherwise none of us will use it.
During the last 25 years of the last century, manufacturing professionals learned that one can’t inject quality into a process; everyone is responsible for quality. I believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to apply good judgment and ethics into our work. Like manufacturing, developers can’t rely on a new kind of ethical QA engineer or some sort of detached legal review. We have to get this right, upfront, every time we begin creating material, every time we plan, every time we start a Sprint.
I hope this is helpful and look forward to your responses.