Abramoff, Business Ethics, and Peter Drucker on Decision-Making

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Find me an honest politician, and I will spare this world. We looked everywhere, but could not find an honest politician.

I'm kidding here, but just barely.

"Abramoff is the central figure in what could become the biggest congressional corruption scandal in generations," writes the Washington Post.

And today there's another story: apparently "the U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group."

And:

"Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.)."

"The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy."

Everyone knows how corrupt politicians are. These days, it seems worse than ever.

But now we are looking at the Enronization of Business, all business.

If competitive advantage is gained through "bribes," then why should business ever play straight?

Is corruption the core-competence of successful businesses? What happened to the rule of law?

From Exxon to Wal-mart, businesses have lost their way. In their hurry to boost shareholder value, they are destroying their brands and their future.

They are playing in Box 1 and ignoring Box 3.

So why is this happening? Why are so many smart businesses (and politicians) being so dumb?

The answer comes to us from the late Peter Drucker:

Drucker tells us this story about Alfred P. Sloan Jr. who is reported to have said at a meeting of one of the GM top committees, "Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here." When everyone around the table nodded in assent, Sloan says: "Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about."

Drucker's point is that "unless one has considered alternatives, one has a closed mind." Decision-making for Drucker is best only if based on the clash of conflicting views, the dialogue between different points of view, and the choice between different judgements."

The first rule of decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.

Alas, few business leaders or politicians tolerate dissent in their ranks. In fact, they work hard to eliminate nay-sayers.

And that is the root cause of all this corruption. Not money, but bad choices, bad decisions. OK- perhaps it is money after all.

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This page contains a single entry by Christian Sarkar published on December 31, 2005 3:57 PM.

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