Ethics at Work
Creating Virtue at an American Corporation
Publication Year: 2013
Daniel Terris spent two years researching Lockheed Martin materials and interviewing its ethics officers and ordinary employees to develop this rich case study of the ethics program at this powerful global corporation. This study begins with a survey of American attitudes toward ethics in business over the past century, raising the question of whether ethics can be genuinely built into the modern mega-corporation. Terris then develops a portrait of Lockheed Martin--its history and the nature of its far-flung businesses--turning at last to its ethics program, which was created following a series of bribery, overcharging, and corruption scandals in the 1970s and 1980s.
By 1996, Lockheed Martin had in place some dull, preachy ethics programs designed to provide basic information on telling right from wrong in business practice. But then-CEO Norm Augustine wanted to liven things up, so he turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: the irreverent Dilbert comic strip. The company came up with a board game that resembled Clue, but used Dilbert characters to explore ethical case studies drawn from real-life Lockheed Martin incidents. Terris examines the success of the board game, as well as subsequent efforts including special workshops, a film festival, and biennial ethics surveys to engage employees in broad-based discussions of ethics at work.
Although Terris applauds Lockheed Martin's ethics program as "gloriously democratic" in its focus on the responsibility of every worker for the ethical dimensions of his or her actions, he is concerned that the broad-based focus tends to divert attention from the ethical responsibilities of senior management and the moral complexities of collective decision-making. While he admires the ambitious scope of the program, he notes that the corporation's definition of "ethics" focuses on individual behavior rather than on the impact of the corporation's broader policies on local, national, and global communities. The ultimate effect of such programs may be to create more ethical business practices--but, ironically, at the expense of the public good.
Published by: Brandeis University Press
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The leaders and staff of the division of Ethics and Business Conduct at the Lockheed Martin Corporation provided me with access and assistance at every step of my research. They do not fully agree with the conclusions that I have drawn about their corporation, but I appreciate and admire the way that they were willing to subject their work to an outsider’s scrutiny. ...
Introduction: In the Shadow of the Skunk Works
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Dave Sanders meets me at the entrance of the Lockheed Martin facility in Palmdale, California, just outside the security office, the credit union, and the gift shop carrying toy models of U-2s and Stealth fighters.1 An understated man in his fifties, Sanders is the site’s full-time ethics officer, one of eighty men and women throughout the corporation ...
1 | Titans and Warhogs
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Americans have shown concern about the moral behavior of businesses and business leaders since the earliest years of European settlement in the New World. Even while the United States developed the world’s most productive capitalist environment, ideas about what constituted appropriate behavior in the business community became part of the national conversation. ...
2 | Success and Scandal
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Lockheed Martin Corporation is the size of a small city, but its reach is global. Its 130,000 employees work in nearly 1000 facilities scattered around forty-five states and dozens of foreign countries. Each year in the twenty-first century, the corporation has sold more than $25 billion worth of airplanes, missiles, detection systems, ...
3 | Peeling Back the Onion
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Close to a hundred men men and women crowd the Palm Room at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Orlando, Florida, for the start of the 2003 annual Ethics Officer Conference for the Lockheed Martin Corporation. Clean-cut, casual, welcoming to a new face, ranging in age from their mid-thirties to their early sixties, they are at their ease. ...
4 | Vulnerabilities
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For all it's successes, there are significant limitations to Lockheed Martin’s approach to ethics. Measured against its own standards and those of the contemporary ethics industry, Lockheed Martin’s program shines. Measured against the expectations of the broader culture, however, the program falls short. ...
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Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2013