Entries in "ethics"
November 10, 2006
a noble profession
Which is the most noble of professions? Certainly, medicine is a top contender -- and one of the reasons is the Hippocratic Oath. In the next 100 years, though, it's possible that management will give medicine "a run for its money", so to speak. Here's a quote from my colleague, Julia Grant:
"all business schools are under an imperative to try to get better at teaching strong ethics, at teaching strong business values that do have to do with creating a better world. Business cannot be just about profit."(from Peter Krouse's October 28 article in the Plain Dealer, "Honor among managers")
The dean of Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management, told the story of Thunderbird's new oath during the BAWB conference in Cleveland last month. Some are skeptical about the ability of a voluntary oath taken by students at one management school to change the practices of managers around the world. Normally, I'm known for my skepticism. In this instance, though, I believe it's more important to match the high intent of those students with practical actions which will reinforce their intent.
I'm lining up beside those recent Thunderbird graduates who signed their oath, and beside any Weatherhead students who will draft and then sign our own version. I will do whatever I can to make management practice more ethical, day by day, so that we can truly say, 100 years from now, that management is a noble profession.
November 06, 2006
responsible capitalism and ethical behavior in the face of discrimination
One of my posts from last spring which gets a lot of traffic is on responsible capitalism and ESOPs. This morning I decided that I wanted to reinforce the connections between responsible capitalism and individual proactive behavior in organizations.
What is responsible capitalism? William Pfaff wrote about it in 2002 in the International Herald Tribune (and Common Dreams provides the text online). He provides a history lesson, distinguishing responsible capitalism from the popular capitalism that was championed by Henry Ford. Responsible capitalism is about more than simply paying workers well so that they can afford to buy the products they make in their workplaces. It is about decisions for the long-term benefit of all, rather than for the quarterly earnings reports. It probably even involves regulation of businesses, rather than assuming that the invisible hand will always reward the companies which act ethically.
In business schools, there is a trend to return to the teaching of ethics. We now realize, after Enron and Worldcom and other scandals, that we have not done enough. It is not enough to assume that all our students have already learned the Golden Rule. It is not enough to mention ethics at the beginning of the semester. It's not even enough to address it through one required course in the MBA curriculum dedicated to ethics in business.
I have always discussed ethical issues in my teaching of organizational behavior, and I'm sure that I will continue to improve the effectiveness of those discussions. Last week, in MGMT 250, both class sessions were focused on ethics.
Click through to read more about students' responses to Thursday's class session.
February 21, 2006
problem solvers wanted
In a faculty meeting yesterday, one of my colleagues argued that we could measure our degree of success in developing our students' skill levels by assessing the difference in their salaries before they entered a degree program and after they left. He asked a rhetorical question, something along the lines of this: "Isn't anything we do that will have value for students going to get translated into more money for them after they leave here?"
I could not help myself. I bellowed, from the last row, "NO!"
I feel quite strongly that an MBA is not just a ticket to corporate success. It should also be a ticket to superior problem-solving skills, and an understanding of how businesses can be used as vehicles for solving world problems. When I ask my students what their top 5 values are, relatively few of them say "getting rich"... most of them talk about things like honoring their family, enjoying time with friends, and pursuing meaningful achievements. The value of our degree programs must lie in the extent to which we develop the skills that students need to live noble lives, acting in accord with their values.
James Cascio at Worldchanging makes an impassioned argument that environmentalists need to be working on solving the poverty problem, and I would argue that businesspeople should be working with them. CK Prahalad argues in "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" that pulling those in poverty out and into a class of entrepreneurial consumers is the next great challenge for business. I would argue that pulling all of us into the status of sustainable producers and consumers is fundamental to the question of whether our global society will remain healthy, or implode within my daughter's lifetime.
CK Prahalad's book argues that working at the bottom of the pyramid is profitable. I'd assert that even if it yields lower lines of financial return than other types of work, it's still worth pursuing. There are more important things in life than making more money, and solving the problems of poverty and environmental degradation are two of those most important tasks for my generation and those that follow.
February 20, 2006
Global Discover Contest
The Weatherhead School of Management’s Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB) has partnered with Net Impact to develop the Global Discover Contest, which invites people to offer suggestions on new ways for business to live in mutual benefit with the earth’s ecosystems and world’s societies. The deadline is April 1. Learn more at this URL.
January 11, 2006
Areas of Moral Clarity
Last year I made two posts about Tracy Kidder's book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, which have both been very high in my blog stats. The first was this brief entry back in June which included a link to the questions in the essay contest about Tracy Kidder's book. The second was this entry with context on Case's Common Reading Program, made in early August.
However, I never actually returned to the questions in the essay contest. They are wonderfully rich questions, though, like this one: When you look at situations in the world, do you see mostly areas of moral ambiguity or of moral clarity? Take an issue that matters deeply to you, and identify the major obstacles to resolving it? Does the main difficulty lie in determining what "ought to be done," or does it lie in "the doing?"
Any human being who suffers from disease deserves high-quality treatment, regardless of whether the individual can afford to pay for that treatment or not. This is Paul Farmer's area of moral clarity, and I stand with him in his assertion that any human being deserves health care. On this basis, he has motivated himself and a large team to deliver treatment for Tuberculosis, HIV, and other medical conditions in Haiti, Russia, Africa, and other areas beseiged by poverty. Farmer's work with Partners in Health offers powerful evidence that disease and the suffering that comes with it can be effectively treated.
My assertion is that health education for preventive care is as much a moral imperative as is free treatment of disease in poor communities.
December 22, 2005
sophomores are careful of some very careful thinking (and writing)
"Tom becomes bored with his work easily and his performance drops when this happens. Our half of the class suggested that the company look into adopting a method of allowing workers to change to different positions (i.e. operate drill presses for a period of time instead of only tightening nuts and bolts). Assembly line jobs are boring; ask any worker who has had to repeat tasks for long periods of time. I even injured myself out of boredom when operating a drill press for an extended period. By allowing employees to rotate through different positions, a company can change the rhythm of the work and keep workers interested in their job.
This procedure has risks. I'll rewrite that sentence with different styling: This procedure has risks. To execute this properly, management needs to set up a list of workers and desired rotation positions. Training and orientation sessions will then be given to all workers for each position they specify. Workers will be rotated in and out of positions over a regular and stated period of time and all positions will have trained and experienced workers at all times. That way, the number of people moving into a position that are relatively new to that position is small compared to the number of experienced workers at that position at all times."
July 18, 2005
internet soap operas and academic integrity
I have not been involved in new student orientation this year, for the first time in several years, and it feels strange to be denying myself the pleasure of advising incoming first-year undergraduates about course selections. So it is that I learned by reading my RSS feed of Planet Case that incoming students like Colin Slater are being introduced both to Blog@Case and to conversations about academic integrity by watching tv or movie excerpts (48 Hours for Colin, and Cheaters for one of the other new students who commented on Colin's post).
I came across Colin's post on Saturday, and when I came back to it this morning, it was after reading this old Wired article from May 1997 about the internet soap opera that was the early years of the WELL. The article is looooong, with hints of the essence of more recent internet phenomena like Meetup, Livejournal, and delicious, and it made me long for the same kind of rich insider history to be written about the Cleveland Freenet, which was a part of my online initiation back in the late 80s when I was a Case undergraduate. (There's a brief history of CFN here.) What I realized is that the history of another online community is being made as you read and comment -- the history of Blog@Case, which allows a management professor to welcome a new freshman to campus without even meeting him in person.
One of the premises of the early life of the WELL community is that electronic conversation flows better when the people engaging in the conversation online occasionally meet in person also. I hope that Colin and I will run into one another on campus sooner or later... we might discuss academic integrity, or what it takes to make a healthy blog community. Perhaps he'll share his opinion on Bruce Katz's statement (commenting on his firing of a prominent WELL employee) that "I do not believe that everyone knowing everything about everyone is a necessary condition for community." I expect that the incoming class of 2009 can teach older generations like mine a fair amount about the finer points of participating in the blogosphere and other online communities.
I am pleased to learn that we are introducing our newest students to the principles of academic integrity via a conversation, rather than a simple statement of expectations. This choice makes clear that there is more to academic integrity than avoiding plagiarism or cheating. It suggests that students are our partners in upholding a key value of our academic community -- the value of honoring the contributions that others make to our learning, by giving credit to them for the ideas they have authored, and not claiming authorship for ideas that are not our own. I hope that students will also learn that part of demonstrating academic integrity is refraining from expressing ideas as your own if you do not actually believe them. Holding onto a dissenting opinion and elaborating on it in a constructive way is part of how knowledge grows... saying what you think the teacher wants to hear just to get a good grade is not.
June 29, 2005
temper mercy with wisdom
Dean Jenkins (a pseudonym) writes about when to follow policy and when to make an exception. It's an insightful column in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and makes a point that few of my undergraduates who challenge their grades ever seem to think about.... it's my responsibility as a professor to think not just about what will benefit the petitioning student, but also about what is fair for other students. Enforcing grading policy is never enjoyable for me, but it is almost always the right thing to do. I'm blogging this column here so that I can reread it when I am doubting my judgment or struggling with the discomforts that come with doing the right thing.