My Contribution to #pmcamp13ber
I am sitting in the Berlin DB lounge, waiting for my train to Munich. The PM camp and sessions I attended yesterday and today is still on my mind. And since I received so much positive criticism, here is a concise version of today’s presentation by yours truly.
It is a description of what a modern manager who wants to be both successful and ethically responsible might (or should?) look like. From other sessions before my own presentation, I got the impression that it might be a good idea to start with a definition of “moral conduct” and “ethics”. So this is how my presentation started:
Moral Conduct and Ethics
As I understand it, moral conduct is characterized by rules and laws. Some of them have been written down, some of them are valid without the written form. It is generally assumed that moral conduct is a requirement for the common good (bonum commune) in social systems, or at least that it will be very useful in this sense.
If you violate the rules of moral conduct, this will have consequences: you will suffer either punishment – if you broke the law – or social ostracism or something similar. The fact that moral conduct can also cause damage is accepted. And this kind of damage is often done because, basically, laws cannot foresee all “morally problematic” situations in life, no matter how you amend or add to them.
Ideally, the citizens agree to adhere to the rules, since they understand how beneficial this is for the entire society. Unfortunately, however, this is not what usually happens.
Problems with moral conduct:
If you insist on moral conduct as being normative for your behaviour, this will cause lots of problems. More often than not, the accepted damage is too much. The world changes, yet moral conduct is more or less static, which makes it a contradiction to new developments. Different groups of society (age, sex, socialization, religion, …) might well have totally different opinions on some relevant topics.
Ethics, give you a rule. Behaving ethically means you make this rule the maxim for your own decisions and behaviour in a responsible way. In order to do so, you have to be able to decide and act according to an ethical balance of values following the rule. Consequently, “ethical behaviour”, too, will usually be in the interest of the “bonum commune”. It is an important goal of ethical behaviour to minimize damage.
Examples for ethics:
- Happiness-Ethics (Eudämonismus) Its roots are in Greek philosophy. It aims at maximizing lust yet avoiding pain
- The Golden Rule It means “treat others the way you would like to be treated“
- Duty Ethics Duty ethics simply tell you to follow the law (and the orders of your boss).
- Conscience Ethics “follow your conscience”
- The principle of biophile behaviour.
I do not think the Happiness Ethics and the Golden Rule can be practiced. Management is not the only sector where it probably will not be very helpful. Moreover, these two ethics only seem to be applicable to humans. Today, however, there is a broad consensus that ethics far exceeds human affairs.
The duty ethics are something I mistrust as a matter of principle. Too many atrocities and crimes have been committed “just doing your duty”.
“Follow your conscience” is not really conceivable to me, because as a general rule, conscience will always come after the decision and the act.
My next two articles will discuss the image of the “new manager” and the “biophile principle”.
(Translated by EG)