Unit 1: Measuring Success: Profits Or People?

“We measure success by the way we touch the lives of people” (Chapman, 2012).

This was the vision of leadership or Guiding Principles of Leadership for Barry-Wehmiller, a manufacturing technology company. In 2009, amidst an economic recession, Barry-Wehmiller needed to review ways in which the company could save money to offset the 40% decline in new equipment orders they were experiencing for the year (Chapman, 2012). Upon consideration of their Guiding Principles, CEO, Bob Chapman took time to consider, “What would a caring family do when faced with a crisis” (Chapman, 2012)? “In the 1900’s layoffs, ‘downsizing’ became a popular catch phrase” (Chapman, 2012). While a business norm or fallback when under financial duress, Chapman elected for a more ethical universalism approach.

Ethical universalism is essentially considered to be choosing, “the lesser of two evils” (PSY 533, 2018). “If we adopt the principle of universality: if an action is right (or wrong) for others, it is right (or wrong) for us” (Chomsky, 2002). Barry-Wehmillers’ meta-ethics, or a standard one (organization) needs “…of what is right or wrong before one can act in a manner that either aligns with or violates those standards” (PSY 533, 2018) has been laid out as a bench of all conduct and ethical decisions company-wide in their Guiding Principles. The meta-ethical position of a universal ethic is “for all similarly situated individuals” (Kemerling, 2011) regardless of any discriminatory features as outlined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Gowans, 2008). The thousands of individuals that comprise Barry-Wehmiller and the universalism centered Guiding Principles led Bob Chapman to implement a crises plan centered on shared sacrifice. The team designed a furlough program in which all members of the organization would share the burden to make up for lost profits, not through layoffs, but rather a furlough program of four weeks unpaid time off per employee.

In this situation, the organization found a way to take “the lesser of two evils” (PSY 533, 2018) (furlough vs layoffs) via ethical universalism keeping their meta-ethics, or Guiding Principles, in the forefront of their decision making method. This leadership with ethical resolution for the group as a whole trickled down to team members resulting in intense feelings of association and loyalty to a company that cared about their individual interests in addition to the financial interests of the organization. To CEO Bob Chapman, decisions center on heart-counts more than headcounts.

 

References

Chapman, Bob (December 5, 2012). “Walk Your Talk”. Retrieved from https://www.trulyhumanleadership.com/?p=356&p=356

Chomsky, Noam (July 2, 2002). “Terror and Just Response”. ZNet. Retrieved from https://chomsky.info/20020702/

Gowans, Chris (Dec 9, 2008). Edward N. Zalta, ed, ed. “Moral Relativism”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2012/entries/moral-relativism/

Kemerling, Garth (November 12, 2011). “A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names”. Philosophy Pages. Retrieved from http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/u.htm#unvby

Northouse, P. G. (2015). “Leadership: Theory and Practice” (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

PSY 533 (2018). L03 Ethical Theories. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1896721/modules

3 Comments

  1. Tara Schlomka February 11, 2018 at 1:09 PM #

    Robert,

    I appreciate your insight from your PSY 812 course. I look forward to taking it myself.

    Working cooperatively to ensure mutual success is essential to the buy-in of any organizational change. Identifying the people leaders “who have higher levels of emotional stability” as you stated, is important in moving progress with limited pessimism. What Chapman’s leadership team did well was to tell a “compelling change story;” (Rick, 2013) a critical element for successful change management.

    I’d agree, that there was a common motivator for the group to take the news so well. According to Chapman, “The furlough plan revealed that we cared deeply about our team members. They felt an overwhelming sense of relief that they could count on their job and income” (Chapman, 2012). I see their common motivator here as a sense of security for themselves, their loved ones and their teammates.

    Tara

    References
    Chapman, Bob (December 5, 2012). “Walk Your Talk”. Retrieved from https://www.trulyhumanleadership.com/?p=356&p=356

    Rick, Torben (February 15, 2013). “Top 12+ important elements for successful change management effort”. Retrieved from https://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/change-management/12-important-elements-for-successful-change-management-effort/

  2. Mario R Barrera February 5, 2018 at 10:51 PM #

    Many companies today are not immune to the potential of downsizing or layoffs. The ability to facilitate the best course of action can prove challenging. As you mentioned in the case of Barry-Wehmiller, leadership faced a tough decision on how to address the issue of decreasing inventory orders. Leadership elected an approach involving a furlough versus termination. Leaders were faced with the possibility of terminating good tenured and non tenured employees with invaluable experience. The leaders along with employees intuitively found a means to solve this dilemma in essence by doing what was right for the greater good. In this case the notion of consequentialism can be utilized to help explain how leadership derived their solution. Hart (n.d.) includes, “We can apply consequentialism ubiquitously, because all decisions have measurable consequences. The biggest strengths of consequentialism are the relative ease of universal application and its usefulness for practical application.”

    Additionally, utilitarianism states that we should behave so as to create the greatest good for the greatest number (Northouse, 2015, p. 334.) The idea is to find the right balance. Consequentialist and utilitarian ethics are good in that they can address very complicated life situations that may not have perfect solutions (PSY 533, 2018). Utilitarianism provides and optimal approach in solving this business problem. This conforms to our feeling that some good and some bad will necessarily be the result of our action and that the best action will be that which provides the most good or does the least harm (Bonde, et al., 2011). In this case leadership found a means that took everyone’s needs into consideration. When leaders consider the “Greater Good” they are taking a level of responsibility that extends far beyond their corporate walls (Thornton, 2014). Ethical leadership is about striving for the same goal and embodying the same purpose, values and vision (Martin, 2014). In this scenario the proposed solution by leadership was accepted on all fronts and the organization truly displayed their commitment to not only the organization but the employees as well.

    References

    Bonde, S., Firenze, P., Green, J., Grinberg, M., Korijin, J., Levoy, E., Naik, A., Ucik, L., & Weisberg, L. (2013, May). A framework for making ethical decisions. Retrieved from
    http://www.brown.edu/academics/science-and-technology-studies/framework-making-ethical-decisions

    Hart, G. (n.d.). Applying Utilitarianism: Are Insider Trading and the Bailout of GM Ethical? Retrieved from
    https://sevenpillarsinstitute.org/ethics-101/applying-utilitarianism-are-insider-trading-and-the-bailout-of-gm-ethical/

    Martin, A. (2014). The Importance of Ethics in Leadership. Retrieved from
    http://www.leadershipexpert.co.uk/importance-ethics-leadership.html

    Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed., pp. 334, ). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications

    PSY 533 (2018). Normative Ethics. Retrieved from
    https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1896721/pages/l03-normative-ethics?module_item_id=23791909

    Thornton, L. F. (2014). What is the Greater Good? Retrieved from
    https://leadingincontext.com/2012/08/01/what-is-the-greater-good/

  3. Robert Keith Reeve February 5, 2018 at 2:32 PM #

    The decision for Barry-Wehmiller’s leadership to choose an ethical solution to the economic downturn is commendable. I would be interested in learning more about the decision-making process that led to selecting that outcome. It would require skilled and attentive leadership to mold the workforce where cooperation ruled instead of competition (PSY 812, 2018). Surely there were many employees who felt their superior performance and tenure would shield them from layoffs. Getting them to buy into a cooperative solution where they too would feel pain meant they gave up what would have been for them a relatively painless competition for remaining jobs.

    Levi (2011) found that cooperation occurs when group members are motivated by the group’s goals. For a leader to achieve this cooperation, they need to understand the personal and group motives of their employees, and then help align the motives of individuals to the motives of the group. Levi (2017) also found that cooperation occurs more readily with people who have higher levels of emotional stability. Company leaders would need to rely on these employees to help influence the general workforce. One way for leaders to achieve widespread support is to create a culture where employees “band together” to overcome external forces (Levi, 2017). This appears to be exactly what the leaders did at Barry-Wehmiller.

    References
    Levi, D. (2011). Group dynamics for teams (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
    Levi, D. (2017). Group dynamics for teams (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
    PSY 812. (2018). Lesson 04: Cooperation vs. Competition. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1896724/pages/l04-introduction?module_item_id=23813181.

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