Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Trading Places, and Today’s News – Some Saturday Musings about Values, Morals, Ethics
Dallas Police Department fires three officers:
Dallas Police Chief David Brown fired three officers Friday in cases involving alleged substance abuse, including one who police say drove while drunk and fired a weapon out of his car and another found to have misused prescription drugs.
Parkland Memorial Hospital fired a social worker for complaining about pressure to break safety rules, a new lawsuit alleges.
NFL Players Associaotion appealing punishments:
The NFL Players Association has filed a pair of grievances challenging the authority of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend four players for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program.
In the first, filed with arbitrator Shyam Das, the NFLPA argues that Goodell is prohibited from punishing players for any conduct prior to Aug. 4, when the current collective bargaining agreement took effect.
“In connection with entering into the 2011 CBA, the NFL released all players from conduct engaged in prior to the execution of the CBA, on August 4, 2011,” the grievance says.
(Warning: I may ramble a bit in this post).
Do you remember the movie Trading Places. In the movie, the Duke brothers place a wager that they could turn a common criminal into an upstanding business success, and they could turn a fine-upstanding business success into a common criminal. Here’s one Duke brother to the other (I think I’ve got the brothers speaking in the correct order):
Mortimer Duke to Randolph Duke:
I suppose you think Winthorpe… say if he were to lose his job, would resort to holding up people on the streets.
Randolph Duke to Mortimer Duke:
No, I don’t think that would be enough for Winthorpe.
We’d have to heap a little more misfortune on those narrow shoulders.
If he lost his job and his homeand his fiancée and his friends.
If he were somehow disgraced and arrested by the policeand thrown in jail, even.
Yes, I’m sure he’d take to crime like a fish to water.
By the way, it worked: Billy Ray Valentine became the next Wall Street wonder, and Winthorpe took to crime pretty dramatically.
I occasionally think of this movie as I read the painful stories of the failures of our leaders, and our institutions. Maybe life circumstances do lead some people to do wrong, criminal, evil deeds. (Would you steal medicine for a son or daughter who desperately needed it, if that was the only way you could obtain it?) But, as I remember from many years ago during a lawless riot in one inner city, one community leader put it this way: “the poor must be moral too.” And the rich, I might add. And everyone else.
I just presented a book synopsis of the recent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. A theologian in Germany at the rise of Hitler, Bonhoeffer was “martyred” for his part in a failed attempt to kill Hitler (yes, he played a part in the Valkyrie plot). He was “sent to America” to continue his writing and his speaking in safety, (so that he could continue to have influence), but, he heard a higher ethical calling:
I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America.
I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people. They may have been right in urging me to do so; but I was wrong in going.
Bonhoeffer returned to Germany on the last steamer from America before the war, and ultimately was hanged just two weeks before his camp was liberated by the Americans — on what was certainly the direct order of Hitler himself.
A police officer really does need to live up to a high standard of moral and ethical behavior. And I know, from experience with fine people involved, that the Dallas police Department takes seriously the ethical training of is leaders. So the failure of even one hurts the entire organization (not to mention its reputation in the community).
When we have police officers who break the law, when we have superiors in a public hospital firing a social worker for standing up for what is right, when we have a player’s union asking for penalties to be overturned because the rules were not in effect yet (as though doing the right thing is dependent on the way the rules are written)… I think it is safe to say that there is an ethical vacuum throughout our society.
A fine MBA teacher who attends our First Friday Book Synopsis reminds me that this is not new. This problem is as old as time itself, and no one has found a way to change human nature enough to change such a dark reality.
We could recite the ideas and proposed remedies: more training in ethics, more oversight, and regulation, and coaching, and mentoring, and better discipline, and…
But here is at least one thing to think about. Organizations are shaped, in very real ways, in the image of its top leader. And the more that a top leader sets a clear vision, with an unblinking focus, the more chance that organization has to be shaped in the direction of that vision and focus.
And the more that an organization thinks that that such ethical matters will take care of themselves, the more that an organization decides that an occasional “cya” seminar on ethics is the approach to take to “solve” its ethical issue, the further the organization will fall away from a genuine and lasting ethical core.
In What Matters Now, Gary Hamel writes:
Values (matter now) :
As trust has waned, the regulatory burden on business has grown. Reversing these trends will require nothing less than a moral renaissance in business.
“A moral renaissance in business.” This implies that there was once a golden age in business, an age of good morals, an age of less greed, less skirting of the rules and boundaries of ethical concerns.
But I do think this. We need a pretty serious effort by the genuine leaders, the ones at the top, to tackle this ongoing, multi-generational/multi-century crisis. With all of their vigor and vision and focus.
If anything trumps morals, ethics, values in an organization, it is a time for a new leader. And until we get genuinely moral leaders, we will continue to read story after story of moral failure.
Here is an excerpt from another outstanding article featured by The McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company. It was co-authored by Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee. Granted, this article appeared in 2008 but what it reveals and explains is, if anything, even more relevant — and valuable — than it was then.
To read the complete article, learn more about the firm, check out other resources, sign up for email alerts, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
Source: Organization Practice
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Women have been a growing factor in the success of the US economy since the 1970s.
Indeed, the additional productive power of women entering the workforce from 1970 until today accounts for about a quarter of current GDP. Still, the full potential of women in the workforce has yet to be tapped. As the US struggles to sustain historic GDP growth rates, it is critically important to bring more women into the workforce and fully deploy high-skill women to drive productivity improvement.
McKinsey & Company undertook this research over the past three months to understand how women contribute to the US economy; how their work benefits individual corporations; what prevents women from making greater contributions to their companies; and what approaches can help companies unlock the full potential of women.
Creating the conditions to unlock the full potential of women and achieve our economic goals is a complex and difficult challenge. At a macro level, there is significant potential to raise the labor participation rates of women across the country. At a corporate level, where many high-skill women are employed, the opportunity is to continue to advance women into leadership positions where they can make the greatest contributions. Despite the sincere efforts of major corporations, the proportion of women falls quickly as you look higher in the corporate hierarchy. Overall, this picture has not improved for years.
We believe, however, that there is an opportunity to make substantial progress in developing and advancing women on the path to leadership. Companies have become very good at recruiting women—many major corporations recruit their “fair share” or more of women. Moreover, many companies have introduced mechanisms such as parental leaves, part-time policies, and travel-reducing technologies to help women stay the course. While the many barriers that remain are substantial, interventions at critical career points can have outsized impact.
For example, with a focus on middle management to increase the number of women who advance to the vice-presidential level, corporations could substantially improve the odds of achieving real gender diversity in top management. We found that more women in middle management roles are focused on leading than their colleagues at the entry level. And they have already demonstrated enough to advance and acquire managerial skills. Moreover, many are younger women with relatively light work/family concerns. If companies can win their loyalty at this stage of their careers, they will be more likely to stay the course. These women are ours to lose.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Joanna Barsh is a director in McKinsey’s New York office and Director of the firm’s Organization Practice. Lareina Yee is a partner in McKinsey’s San Francisco office.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Vijay Govindarajan for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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Western multinationals — especially the most successful ones — consistently struggle to achieve their growth targets in emerging markets. Why? Because they try to repeat their past success formulas — the ones that work so well for them in developed markets.
This was the case at Harman, which had achieved extraordinary success in the high-end automotive infotainment systems for luxury cars. However, the company’s initial steps to penetrate developing markets were unproductive. Harman created a scaled-down version of its high-end system which proved a dismal failure in poor countries.
For Harman and many others like them, institutionalized thinking — or what C.K. Prahalad first called the “dominant logic” — creates traps that can sabotage their efforts to capture the full set of opportunities in emerging markets. This is so because emerging market customers have vastly different needs as compared to rich-world customers. In the HBR article, “A Reverse Innovation Playbook” (April 2012) and our latest book, Reverse Innovation: Create Far fom Home, Win Everywhere, my co-author, Chris Trimble, and I elaborate on how western multinationals can overcome their dominant logic. But the starting point is to understand your company’s current dominant logic. For a quick idea of what that might be in your organization, take the following quiz.
What is Your Company’s Dominant Logic?
On a 1-5 scale (where 1=Strongly Agree; 2=Agree; 3=Neither Agree nor Disagree; 4=Disagree; and 5= Strongly Disagree), rate the thinking of your company’s key decision-makers on the following statements, then add up the total of all 10 items.
1. Rich countries are the most technologically advanced. So innovation and learning will move from rich countries to poor countries.
2. Sales of our existing products and services will increase as emerging economies grow and consumer incomes rise. We need only to be patient.
3. The best approach to emerging markets is to export stripped-down versions of existing products and services, and sell them at lower prices.
4. The bulk of the customers in poor countries have low per-capita incomes, low sophistication, and low affordability. We should be able to meet their needs with cheap products based on older technology.
5. Poor countries today are where the rich countries were in their infancy. Poor countries will evolve in the same way that wealthy economies did. As they develop, poor countries will catch up with rich ones.
6. It is impossible to earn healthy profits in emerging markets.
7. The only competitors worth our attention are other multinationals.
8. Products that address poor countries’ special needs can’t be sold in rich countries because they’re not good enough to compete.
9. We excel in product leadership and advanced technology — values inconsistent with the ultra-low-cost products poor countries require.
10. Because we stand for premium products and high quality, we will undermine our global brands if we compete in low-cost markets. Worse, we risk cannibalizing our premium offerings.
What is your company’s score? If your total score is less than 30, you will underperform in emerging markets. Your business needs an antidote.
Recently, I administered this quiz to four world-class multinationals. Their scores ranged from 15 to 35 — very sobering indeed.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Vijay (VG) Govindarajan is the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. As indicated, he is co-author of Reverse Innovation (HBR Press, April 2012).To check out his other blog posts, please click here.
How and why Walmart International continues to be “the best positioned retailer in the world”
As this book’s subtitle suggests, Natalie Berg and Bryan Roberts share “key insights and practical lessons from the world’s largest retailer.” Ironically, Walmart’s globalization initiatives did not kick into gear until after founder Sam Walton was succeeded by David Glass in 1988, 26 years after Walton opened the first Walmart Discount City store in Rogers, Arkansas. What we have in this volume is a reasonably thorough examination of the organization’s rapid growth in terms of both domestic and international markets as well as of its dominance of those markets and even of entire brand categories (e.g. it sells more groceries than Kroger and Safeway do…combined). Moreover, if Walmart were a country, it would rank 25th in terms of gross domestic product. It is also the world’s largest commercial employer. If the first Walmart Discount City store were viewed as an “acorn,” it certainly gave birth to an immense “oak tree,” if not an entire “forest.”
Berg and Roberts focus on major challenges and issues, explaining how Walmart has addressed them to gain and sustain competitive advantage. For example, here are seven of several dozen covered in the book:
o How to position ourselves during the rise of consumerism?
o How to transition branding to a balance of national and private label?
o How to provide cost-effective reader-friendly amenities?
o How to use IT to increase operational efficiency and productivity?
o How to lower costs by lowering suppliers’ costs?
o How to derive maximum benefit from global sourcing?
o How to accelerate improvement of logistics system?
In the Appendix (Pages 217-223), Berg and Roberts provide a timeline of the development of Walton International that began with two small stores in Mexico (1991) until 2011 when WI expanded in the UK, South Africa, the Middle East, and Canada. Does WI have what it takes to reposition for the next 50 years of growth?
Berg and Roberts observe, “The answer must be that Walmart has what it takes to succeed, but will need to be nimble, adaptable, and innovative to reconfigure to the new realities of commerce.” I agree while presuming to add that, in my opinion, competition will become more intense and of a different nature because those who challenge WI have learned valuable lessons from Wal-Mart Stores under Sam Walton’s leadership and they have also learned valuable lessons from what has happened to the company since his retirement as CEO. I assume that WI’s leaders know what got the company to where it is now won’t get it to where it wants to be in months and years ahead.
I agree with Damon Runyon who once said, when paraphrasing Ecclesiastes, ”The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets.”