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Ethics, especially Organizational Ethics, and how it relates to economics and politics 2 May 03


Ethical issues essentially involve the exercise of human choice and the prospects of achieving shared purposes. All values and principles can be tracked to just these two aspects of the human experience. Ethical issues that rise to the level of policy, in an organizational context, involve significant harm or benefit to self or others. Developing notions of social responsibility and business ethics, among all of the concerns of applied ethics, are inseparable from the ethical issues that permeate organizational life. more

Purpose of ethics is to rationalize morality and provide a set of values and rules to guide the choices and actions of individual human beings within a larger community. Organizational ethics is concerned with the structures, systems, practices, and protocols necessary for a given organization, in a given context, to inspire, encourage, support, and require its stakeholders, as appropriate, to abide by its values and rules in order to achieve their shared purposes.

The ethics of purpose is the sense that in organizational life what is good and what is evil can be derived from the shared purposes of the organization and its stakeholders.

Ethics is an evolutionary exercise in self-understanding aimed at that union of harmony, intensity and vividness that involves the perfection of importance for that occasion. It can be viewed as either constructive or constraining, but we see it as an essential process toward self-realization. Human beings and societies are evolving members of an evolving world, and as such, neither the peak nor the end of all evolution. With our power to influence evolution, "to learn" is a fundamental ethical imperative.

Ethics has evolved. At first, it was concerned with relations between individuals. Later ethics dealt with the relation between the individual and society. The latest step in the evolution of ethics is the human being's relation to the land, and the animals and plants that grow on it. In a sense, ethics is beginning to return to the cultural morality of connection to the world with which we evolved. more

There is both a reasoned and an emotional aspect to ethics. There is a temptation to try to reduce ethics to simple awareness, multiple step decision-making models, or sets of principles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ethics and policy engagement is an inherently complex endeavor requiring attention to the full range of human intelligences. More

Most quarrels in values can be traced to evolutionary causes. The structuring of morality into evolutionary levels gives shape to all kinds of blurred and confused moral ideas that are floating around in our present cultural heritage. For example, "vice" is a conflict between biological quality and social quality. Things like sex and booze and drugs and tobacco have high biological quality because they feel good, but are harmful for social reasons. They take all of your money, they break up your family, and they threaten the stability of the community. This whole century's been about the struggle between intellectual and social patterns. Is society going to dominate intellect or is intellect going to dominate society? An evolutionary morality says it is moral for intellect to seek to subjugate society, to escape from the constraints of society, but it also contains a warning: Just as a society that weakens its people's physical health endangers its own stability, so does an intellectual pattern that weakens and destroys the health of its social base also endanger its own stability. More

First principle of ethics: A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the community while permitting its further evolution. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. More

Ethical Codes are necessary because evolution, in liberating humankind from complete dependence on instincts, has also made it possible for us to act with a lack of understanding that no organism ruled by instincts alone could possess. Ethics, however, involves good judgment, sensitivity, and imagination as well, not just obeying rules. Ethics codes should be seen as providing limits to the means that may be employed to achieve organizational aspirations, but otherwise freeing the moral imagination to reach for them. More

Moral Imagination broadens and deepens the context for judgment, action, and assessment to include the less tangible, but more meaningful feelings, aspirations, ideals, and relationships. More Ethical judgment consists in making this context explicit, judging its implications for action, and taking responsibility for learning through experience. More

Change tendencies in evolution that drive the purpose of Organizational Ethics:

  • Changes that lead toward harmony within the community (i.e., the ability to obtain energy through cooperation and utilization of unused energy).
  • Changes that lead toward entropy within the community (or ways of obtaining energy for one's purposes through exploiting other organisms, thereby causing conflict and disorder).
  • While biological evolution occurs through genes, cultural evolution occurs through genes and memes. More

An Organization is an artificial person to be sure. But organizations of all stripes provide some degree of hope, identity, and purpose. But for the harmony, intensity, and vividness of organizational integrity, they require the communication and culture of real people. They require responsible people adept at learning together to achieve shared ends. More

The purpose of Organizational Ethics is to guide the design and development of structures and systems to evolve toward Organizational Integrity. It does so by:

  • Quickening and intensifying existing potentialities of its involved and affected stakeholders.
  • Extending their number and scope.
  • Organizing them so their conflicts will be harmonized.
  • Mobilizing all their energies of will and intellect to move them toward self-realization.

The aim of Organizational Ethics is that union of effectiveness, efficiency, and excellence that involves the perfection of importance toward achieving organizational aspirations.

The first principle of Organizational Ethics: An organization is a community part of larger communities still, and inconceivable without them. More

The foundation of Organizational Ethics is trust, without which effective, efficient, and excellent action is not possible over time.

Organizational Ethics is concerned with developing community and encouraging values and principles-based decision-making rather than rule-following behavior. It recognizes that policy is important in implementing the organization's values. Organizational life, however, is now so complex and changing that a predominance of rules-bound stakeholders will never achieve organizational aspirations. More

Organizational Ethics is embodied in policy choices: documents; structures and systems; principles and practices; and culture.

Ethics, Economics & Politics

VisualPolicy makers have recognized that there is an integral relationship between ethics, economics, and politics, at least since the time of Aristotle. As dEPICted in the figure opposite, none of these fields of endeavor stands alone. There is much to be gained by studying them independently, but much lost if they are not treated together.

Economics is primarily concerned with the individual pursuit of prosperity through markets. The economic goal of prosperity includes three dimensions: efficiency, growth, and stability.

Politics primarily focuses on the community's pursuit of justice through government. The goal of justice includes the three dimensions of individual freedom, equity in the distribution of benefits and burdens, and social order.

Ethics, economics, and politics are ultimately concerned with promoting well-being by maintaining trust, prosperity and justice. What binds these three disciplines together is the concept of "excellence." It is a word that suggests not only "doing well" but also "doing good."

An emphasis on excellence presupposes a particular sense of justice in which merit-excellence-is encouraged, defended, and rewarded within the respective spheres of government and the marketplace. Justice, moreover, involves a sense of caring. To be just we must care about ourselves and our reputations, those we feel akin to and responsible for, the world. Built into any such system is the demand that we not take into account factors irrelevant to the task or beyond the individual's control.

Excellence is measured by its purpose. Excellence is both cooperation and competition contributing to the larger whole. Excellence is a function of mutual inspiration and support in pursuit of a shared purpose. Its opposite, mediocrity, is a function of the mutual insecurity and enforced conformity that results where shared purpose is replaced by instinctive survival.

The marketplace is an efficient arrangement for the satisfaction of economic interests. The realization of values, however, depends upon community-wide dialogue about the symbols, ideals, principles, and ideas of its culture.

In short, economics and politics not founded on the Ethics of the community are without purpose and meaning. Ethics without economics and politics has no means to achieve community ends.

Organizations as Communities. Organizational integrity is ultimately tribe-like, but it is a tribe that learns. It is the purposeful, knowledgeable, trusting exercise of authority in service to a broader community. Such an organization meets the seven parameters of organizational integrity summarized below:

  • Community-We are first and foremost members of organized groups, with shared histories and established practices, and the organization itself is a member of a larger community.
  • Membership-Belonging and recognition are integral aspects of membership in a community. In any organization, there are overlapping and concentric circles of identity and responsibility, and a virtue in one arena may conflict with a virtue in another.
  • Excellence-An organization must encourage and insist upon service with excellence and defend the ideal of a meritocracy, a system in which excellence is honored and mediocrity is not.
  • Integrity-A sense of wholeness, integrity includes both one's sense of membership and loyalty and one's sense of moral autonomy. It invites rather than discourages ethical dilemma because identities and responsibilities overlap, and one must often make one's rules rather than follow them.
  • Judgment-There is no mechanical decision procedure for resolving most disputes about justice, and what is required, in each and every particular case, is the ability to balance and weigh competing concerns and come to a "fair" conclusion.
  • Holism-An increasingly important term in ethics and managerial thinking, holism encourages and ultimately requires reference to "the big picture," to the overall context in which an organizational decision must be made, to the whole rather than just a part.
  • Trust and Hope-As a members of concentric communities, including the world itself, successful living requires confidence that one is participating in some endeavor with a purpose bigger than oneself that has intrinsic value. It is this sense of trust and hope that is sustaining.

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