Harvard Business Review
This case focuses on Martha McCaskey. McCaskey is a relatively recent Harvard B-School grad on the fast track at Seleris Associates. She is a consultant who specializes in competitive analysis for corporations.
McCaskey has been assigned as lead on project Silicon 6. She has a strong track record for delivering quality on her projects, which is why she was chosen as lead for this project. The focus of the project is to reverse engineer cost structure and manufacturing processes for the competitor of a key client of Seleris. This unnamed client is responsible for 20% of the revenue for this division. Therefore, the head of the division is invested in making this customer happy. The top managers promised McCaskey a promotion if she could successfully complete the project to the satisfaction of the client.
McCaskey is extremely resourceful, but in the case of Silicon 6, she was having trouble gaining access to the required information. That is, until she tripped across an ex-employee of the competitor company who was eager to share proprietary information. McCaskey found this unethical.
McCaskey brought the situation to the attention of her management. The managers, eager to please the clients, have encouraged McCaskey to “pay off” the ex-employee in exchange for the necessary information. Management has challenged her to come up with an action plan for the project and to meet with the head of the division to review the plan.
Analysis and Opinion:
McCaskey is faced with an ethical dilemma. In this case, she must decide whether to accept proprietary information, which will result in a satisfied client and a promotion or follow her moral compass and attain the information using ethically acceptable industry standards.
This is a clear case of an organization with a questionable ethical climate. An organization with high ethical standards encourages and shapes the behavior of its...