Ethics Matters

Ethics Matters, by Driscoll and Hoffman, is subtitled 'How to Implement Values-Driven Management'. With that subtitle one might think this is indeed a how-to book for a person wanting to create a more ethical atmosphere.

Unfortunately, that is not how the book is laid out. Instead, this probably should be titled "Ethical Issues - Snapshots of Various Ethical Crisis Situations'. That is what the book is about. You get chapters each focusing on a specific ethical crisis situation and what the company did. Yes, this is quite helpful - but it is far from a how-to.

The book starts by laying out its ten point program - this includes self-assessment, commitment from the top, codes of ethics, communication, training, resources, organizational ownership, consistent standards and enforcement, audits and evaluations, and revision and reform. So you might think that the subsequent chapters would have these headings and go in depth into how to achieve these goals. And indeed some chapters do, but they are so mixed in with other content, and at times so rambling, that it's hard to follow this as an organized thread from start to finish.

For example, there is a chapter on commitment from the top - certainly a key part of having an ethical company. Then we go into a review of Computer Rescue Squad - which apparently had a culture which promoted lying and deceit in order to get things done. The team didn't feel it important enough to speak openly about the blatant issues they were seeing. The book claims "Conway had ushered a key employee out the door" - but actually the person who lied was simply moved into another position and then chose to quit. I'm not sure what kind of a message that sends to the other employees. Lie continually and we'll just change your job?

The company also apparently installed systems without running tests for a few weeks to ensure everything was working properly. They simply set things up and then left it. They were shocked when one of their installations did not work perfectly and they praised themselves for helping to fix the subsequent disaster without charging. It would have been unethical TO charge in that situation. I work in computers, and I found myself cringing throughout this chapter.

Similar issues are presented in other areas. A situation which is promoted as demonstrating the pinnacle of ethics excellence seems suspect. Examples are misleading. It can be hard to follow the thread of the how-to amongst the side tracking paths.

Certainly many of the stories are interesting, in a "I-can't-believe-they-did-that" way. Background on issues ranging from journalistic missteps to Olympic committee bribery are covered. I did find many of these intriguing to read. But in terms of a "how to" on handle issues, there seemed to be too much story-telling and not enough step by step instructions.

I purchased this book with my own funds in order to take a college course on logic.

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