In the public interest early organizations were often created to benefit the city or country concerned. The structure and management of modern organisations originated from city guilds or from military practices. In the past century, with the pervasiveness of the shareholder norm, the focus of modern corporations now rests on profit and economic efficiency. A range of HR practices are now routed in ‘science’ and efficiency.
In many corporations, ‘Success’, is not typically defined at annual general meetings on the quality, accuracy and ethical stance of it’s work, customer service or associated public trust.
Ethical duty and morality.
It has been said that character and culture are how you behave when no one is watching. Stephen Green in ‘Good Value’ says that corporations need to be able to ask and then provide satisfactory answers to the question, “How does the business that we are in contribute to the common good?” Boards and Senior Management need to be able to explain the answer substantively to the public as well as their stakeholders. Moments of truth for organisations, such as those seen in the press currently, concern decisions made by individuals. It requires individuals to understand what is acceptable; specifically it is human judgement that decides that when human rights are being violated in the name of the public good.
I propose that without due attention to an ethics driven culture in the context of wider purpose, a focus exclusively on profit in the context of a well engineered corporation can lead to behavior typical of the instances that initiated this inquiry, regardless of the moral standing of the individual outside of their corporate life. Recent work by Carol Dweck6 at Stanford on Mindset indicates that identifying executives as ‘special’ within Talent systems then creates an associated positive self identity that individuals will work to maintain. In this context Gladwell contends that Talent may be the source of the issues.
I would welcome any input of view on the role of talent management systems to impact or even fuel unethical commercial practices.