Ethics Centre Report on Australian Olympic Committee

The report by the Ethics Centre into the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has been published and makes interesting reading.

It is interesting because it talks about the AOC’s challenges and to quote some of the report, without trying to take it out of context, “it is clear that the organisation is currently facing significant challenges. The modes of operation that may at one time have served it well are being questioned and its organisational culture has come under scrutiny.”

Beyond what the report says about the AOC, it makes lots of interesting comments about the culture of organisations, particularly sporting organisations.

It talks about the Olympic ideal and the noble mission and sets that up against what it calls “the realpolitik of sports administration – with its complex webs of power, influence and politics”. It says “this aspect of sport is at least as competitive as anything that takes place on either track, field or other sporting venue.”

The report makes some very specific recommendations which include ensuring that its governance model is fit for purpose and with regard to the respective roles of management and the executive. It talks of measures to improve behaviour to include:

  • developing a cultural plan
  • managing the risk of poor culture

How many organisations have a cultural plan? I suspect that a cultural plan is management consultancy speak for being able to define your culture and ensure that your behaviours align with this stated ambition.

To me, maintaining culture has always been about ensuring that behaviours of individuals are consistent with the culture that you want to maintain and where the behaviour of individuals strays from this, that is acknowledged, worked on and changed. Whether you want to call that a culture plan is up to you, but to me it requires good intent, diligence and the willingness and ability to call the unacceptable, unacceptable.

All of this takes leadership, not just from one person, but throughout the organisation.

The report says this “In order to re-build trust and confidence in the organisation, we recommend that the AOC:

  • increase transparency in decision making;
  • develop a more robust ethical framework; and
  • dedicate effort to developing leaders into people-leaders as an everyday practice.”

For the report to state that the AOC needs to rebuild trust and confidence is a big statement.

I always find the word transparency to be a curious word. To me the need to see how a decision is made is far less important than the sense that decision appears to be justified, appropriate and well considered. That they are arrived at ethically is essential.

The report over 64 pages sets out in great detail things which are subjective to the AOC. To me it is a reminder that whatever business you are in, be it a sporting organisation, Olympic committee or law firm, culture of the organisation is incredibly important. It is easy to get culture wrong though miscommunications and bad behaviours, but through clear messaging, consistent behaviours and strong leadership at multiple levels, a good, strong, honourable, sustainable culture is achievable.

“The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.”
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