Bite-size Case Study

Ethical codes in management consulting: IBM in the Second World War

Published on November 28, 2019 Originally recorded 2015   4 min
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Do ethical dilemmas and ethical codes work in terms
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of preventing ethical misbehaviour by consultants?
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So I really want to start off with illustrating why ethical dilemmas may not always work in terms of training consultants to be more ethical. So this is a partially true dilemma that we will reveal later. So the dilemma is that you are senior consultant working for an IT company. This IT company has an IT system that processes people down different pathways, assigns them different codes so that they can go work in different areas. The project is worth around 20 million, and the key relationship is between your boss, who is the partner in the consultancy, and the client director, who is buying this technology. So it's a fairly standard consulting project. Now, during the implementation of this, the client director asks you to sign a purchase order for a laptop that the project doesn't need. So in effect, this client director wants a laptop out of you, perhaps for his or her son or daughter. This again is a fairly common ethical problem where the person purchasing consultancy services maybe wants something out of it for themselves. Now, although this isn't breaking the law, it's breaking the director's company policies and it's breaking your own company policies. What's the ethical issue here? Most people will be focusing on this issue about the laptop, and the laptop possibly is important. If you had an ethical issue, most partners would say, "I'm going to buy the laptop out of my own pay", so that there is no ethical issue because, the bonus that the partner will get vastly exceeds anything that the laptop might cost. So most people, when I give them this issue will focus on the laptop and this micro-level question of should I do x or should I do y. However, let's draw back a bit and look at the actual case.
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Ethical codes in management consulting: IBM in the Second World War

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