POINT TO PONDER
"Somehow, we got into a discussion of the responsibility of management. Holden made the point that management's responsibility is to the shareholders – that's the end of it. And I objected. I said, 'I think you're absolutely wrong. Management has a responsibility to its employees, it has a responsibility to its customers, it has a responsibility to the community at large.' And they almost laughed me out of the room."
– David Packard, Stanford Magazine
As a practical matter, ethical conduct cannot be assured by written policies and codes; it must be an integral part of the organization (family, company), a deeply ingrained tradition that is passed from one generation of children/employees to another.
Stories of “Un”-compromising Integrity (five out of many that I have gathered over the years)
- In mid 80s it was a normal industry practice to include expenditure for material/product REWORK as part of annual plans. The director of the organization I worked for recognized that in order to be "the world-class manufacturing company" we needed to be, the behavior of doing things right first time had to become second nature. He issued the mandate of “NO REWORK” in manufacturing. The plant managers gladly accepted the challenge. A few weeks after the policy change, one rather large lot of expensive products with a high revenue potential were mislabeled. The manager of the plant came up with multiple reasons, requests, apologies, promises: “let me ship this time, promise it will never happen again...” In response, our Director stood firm with his 'NO REWORK' directive. Financially, it was a substantial loss but that action had tremendous impact on people's subsequent behaviors - resulting in a serious focus on preventive actions and providing real life lessons in leadership. He was leading by example. Many years later, he went on to become the CEO of that company.
- Back in India, during my school days, we used to have an annual celebration day. In addition to many fun activities, we had one special event where all the students would get together in our stadium, sing the school anthem, and participate in a flag raising ceremony. The unique part was that the person who would raise the flag was our school janitor, Trikam, and all of us (mostly children from the “upper class”) were supposed to salute him at the end of the ceremony, shake hands with him, and thank him for his services. Trikam was from a class which was not only considered lower but “untouchable.” Despite protests from wealthy parents and threats to pull substantial donations, our school principal, Vajubhai, stuck true to the Gandhian ideals that our school was committed to.
- In 1977, I was leaving my company to return to university for a higher degree. Sheldon Taylor, the manager of our group, called me in to his office to discuss my plans after graduation. Sheldon promised support if I returned to the company after I completed school. While I was in school, one day I received a call from none other than Sheldon. He told me that he was leaving the company for another opportunity but he had informed incoming management about the commitment he had made to me. The last thing said, “call me if you have any problems.” When I completed school, the new management offered me the job that Sheldon had committed. I have not spoken to him since, but I have never forgotten him and the commitment he delivered on.
- In a community college parking lot, a teenage boy that we know left a very small scratch on the car next to his when he opened his car door. No one was around but he still left a note on the scratched car with his name and phone number. Later that evening, the father of the girl who owned that scratched car called. The first thing he said was, “I want to specially thank you for leaving a note even though the scratch is insignificant. I am not sure my daughter would have done the same.” Ultimately, it costs $350 to get the scratch removed. Years later, the same boy’s car was left badly dented in a Union Square parking lot by someone who did not leave a note with his/her phone number. Upon coming home, sad and angry, he asked his father, “what do I do next time when I scratch or dent someone’s car,” to which the dad replied, “same thing you did the first time.”
- “There is too much money on the table. Just sign the deal and then we will figure out,” is what the VP of sales ordered the operations VP (1987). But Gary, the VP of Ops, refused because the company did not have the capability to deliver the level of performance in the time period the customer wanted. Gary was called many names; “simple minded technician” and “naïve” being a couple. Instead, he was honest with the customer and let them know when they could realistically deliver on the customers request. Ultimately, we got their business and later learned from the customer that our competitor was not capable of completing in the alloted time and appreciated our honesty.
I have collected many examples of Uncompromising values through the years. Putting the word/letters “Un” in front of anything has huge implications, associated costs, and consequneces both positive and negative. "Un" means not compromising no matter the temtation or price one might have to pay. "Un" is a huge commitment requiring uncompromising focus and adherance. For me personally, I strive for uncompromising values but do not claim to be there. Just the other day, one of my staff members pointed out the hypocracy in my actions vs my words and I thank her for that. There are still so many things that all of us need to learn and do everyday, myself especially.