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A professional ethics department

By Sarah Maloney

February 1, 2022

Case Studies

A professional ethics department - cs-cpa-1
A professional ethics department - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1
A professional ethics department - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1

This department is composed of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) who investigate alleged ethics violations made by their peers. The department members present recommendation reports to an external committee, which decides on next steps.

The presentations were too detailed and hard to follow, and committee members had trouble making sound decisions based upon the information they heard. In addition, when the committee asked for clarification or had questions, the presenters became nervous and defensive.

These problems resulted from both poorly written summaries and confusing oral presentations. The summaries were poorly organized, jumped back and forth among allegations, history and evidence; furthermore, they were written in quasi-legal English. Committee members, who are supposed to review each summary before meeting, found they were spending between 30 minutes and four hours on each one. Thirty cases can be reviewed in a meeting, so they often gave up and came to meetings unprepared to discuss each case. As a result, countless hours were wasted in the meetings.

We recommended a blend of two of our popular workshops: Writing Technical Reports and Presenting to Groups.

The entire department went through 1½ days of writing training followed immediately by 1½ days of presentation skills training. We created a before-and-after version of a case summary so participants could contrast the differences. We also crafted two templates: one for investigators to use when looking into a violation and one to use when writing a case summary.

The reports now take less time to write, review and edit. The presentations and summaries are much clearer and facilitate better decisions. Presenters sound more decisive and confident, and they portray a professional and competent image to the external committee. Consequently, the meetings are faster, and discussions are at a more strategic level.

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