HOW TO RESOLVE ETHICAL DILEMMA
A CASE STUDY
[An updated excerpt from my Article titled PUTTING ETHICS BEFORE BUSINESS by VIKRAM KARVE published in the Journal INDIAN MANAGEMENT (The Journal of the All India Management Association) Vol 36 No 10 October 1977 issue pp 51-53]
Some people believe that ethics is of little concern to business people.
Ethics is ethics and business is business.
When faced with an ethical dilemma today, many upwardly managers tend to take the position that they must wear two hats and cloak themselves with two separate, conflicting codes of ethics. One ethical hat applies to the professional or technical aspects of their work (professional or technical ethics) and the other for their business behaviour (business ethics).
This leads to the development of a schizophrenic ethical personality, with the manager striving for professional excellence and high ethical standards for his own self, but resorting to unethical practices to achieve business success for his organization at all costs. Indeed this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde approach is at the heart of many ethical dilemmas in managerial decision-making.
One useful technique to resolve such ethical dilemmas is the CATWOE model adapted from Systems Management. Ethical dilemma occurs due to mismatch in ethical perspectives of various stakeholders involved in the ethical situation. A CATWOE analysis helps the manager identify all stakeholders involved in a decision and their respective ethical perspectives.
CATWOE is an acronym to categorize various stakeholders:
C = CUSTOMERS, OR CLIENTS OF THE DECISION
A = ACTORS, OR AGENTS WHO CARRY OUT THE DECISION
T = TRANSFORMATION PROCESS, THE DECISION MAKER
W =WELTANSCHAUUNG, WORLD VIEW PREDOMINANTLY HELD
O = OWNERS / OWNERSHIP
E = ENVIRONMENT / ENVIRONMENTAL IMPOSITIONS
To elaborate a bit:
C: The ‘customers of the system’. In this context, ‘customers’ means those who are on the receiving end of whatever it is that the system does. Is it clear from your definition of “C” as to who will gain or lose from your decision?
A: The ‘actors’, meaning those who would actually carry out the activities envisaged in the notional system being defined.
T: The ‘transformation process’. What does the system do to the inputs to convert them into the outputs?
W: Weltanschauung - The ‘world view’ that lies behind the root definition. Putting the system into its wider context can highlight the consequences of the overall system. For example the system may be in place to assist in making the world environmentally safer, and the consequences of system failure could be significant pollution.
O: The ‘owner(s)’ – i.e. those who have sufficient formal power over the system to stop it existing if they so wished (though they won’t usually want to do this).
E: The ‘environmental constraints’. These include things such as ethical limits, regulations, financial constraints, resource limitations, limits set by terms of reference, and so on.
CASE STUDY – ETHICAL DILEMMA
(This case study pertains to the year 1997)
A state-of-the-art cutting-edge technology product (say something like a mobile phone – remember the year in 1997) is to be launched by a leading company simultaneously at different locations for the first time in the country on a certain date which has been widely announced and advertised and there is fantastic customer response and heavy bookings for the product.
A big event is planned in Pune for the launch for which a large number of dignitaries, customers and media have been invited, for extensive TV, media and press coverage. The manager’s career hinges on the success of the event and the launch.
Three days before the scheduled launch date the newly appointed regional manager’s deputy...