Measuring Integrity – a basic model from first principles

In a recent post I wrote about Turkish Coffee and reflected on three dimensions of Integrity in the „Head-Heart-Hand“ (3H) model used also in competency assessment and people development. After giving this some more thought, I have slightly amended the interpretation of Integrity in the 3H-model and am starting to think this could be used to actually measure the Integrity of an organization, provided we can find a good operationalization for measuring each of the three dimensions.

The Integrity „Cuboid“

In my model, Integrity is composed of three independent aspects, all of which must be consistent and present to some extent in order to have Integrity. If one of them is missing, the result is not Integrity. This relation between the three characteristics can best be visualized by taking each if the characteristics as one axis of a three-dimensional space. The measure of Integrity is then the product of the extension of the characteristic in each dimension.

The three independent dimensions are:

  1. The emotional dimension (Heart): The belief in the right thing, in ethics, the conviction of the core values, and the code of ethics.
  2. The intellectual dimension (Head): The rational understanding of the values system, the principles and rules of the code of conduct, policies and procedures.
  3. The behavioral dimension (Hand): Putting it into action. Doing the right thing according to the emotional and intellectual dimension.

When we put this into a three dimensional picture, we see that according to the extent of each of the three dimensions, the result is a cuboid. Lets take the x-axis as the Heart dimension, the y-axis as the Hand dimension and the z-axis as the Head dimension. The volume of the cube is a measure of Integrity: Integrity = Heart x Head x Hand. If one dimension is zero, the volume is zero and the result is not Integrity (or an Integrity measurement of zero).

The side faces of the cuboid are measures of other aspects, two-dimensional projections, which are sub-aspects (or „shadows“) of Integrity:

  • Surface I: Head x Heart = Awareness, or at least closely related to the awareness. But by itself, without the behavioral dimension, it is ineffective.
  • Surface II: Head x Hand = Compliance, behavior that is following the rules; but without the emotional buy-in, this can be also obedience, forced compliance, habitual compliance, unaware or even coincidental compliance.
  • Surface III: Heart x Hand = Activistm, behavior out of the conviction of doing the right thing; but independent and individual and not necessarily in line with the principles and rules; in extreme cases anarchy.


The following conclusions result from this first-principles model:

Compliance without Ethics is blind.
Ethics without Compliance is futile.
Awareness without action is hypocrisy.

Corollary 1: Compliance (surface II) without Ethics is blind. Compliance is less than Integrity. Compliance is observed behavior in lines with rules and principles. It follows from Integrity, but the reverse isn‘t true. The fact that compliant behavior is observed does not permit the conclusion that there is Integrity. Also, Compliance lacks the ethical foundation of the emotional dimension.

Corollary 2: Ethics without Compliance is futile. The emotional buy-in and conviction, without the action and the rational dimension is futile.

Corollary 3: Awareness (surface III) without action is no only ineffective but in the case of Integrity could be even called hypocritical.

If you have integrity, nothing else matters.
If you don‘t have integrity, nothing else matters.
– Alan K. Simpson

Measuring the three dimensions

How can we then measure the extent of the three dimensions for a particular organization or unit?

While he rational dimension may be more easily measured by questionnaires and tests of knowledge and theoretical application of principles and rules, and the actual behavior can be measures by direct observation and the number (or absence of) violations, the emotional dimension may be the most difficult to determine.

I will explore this further and am interested in any comments and constructive criticism. At the moment, i just wanted to capture these thoughts and write them here down and invite others to join the discussion.

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