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Ethical Dilemma #2: Failure to meet supply commitments

September 18, 2013

Yesterday I asked whether contract and commercial managers have an ethical responsibility to raise issues and challenge unethical behavior. I promised a series of brief case studies, posing the question ‘what would you do?’ Here is the second example:

Supply commitments will not be met  You are managing an extremely high profile contract with a government body. It involves supplying trained personnel to support a major international event. Since the dates of this event are fixed, there is no flexibility over timing. You become aware that targets are slipping and that supply commitments will not be met. However, senior management refuses to acknowledge this and, in meetings with the customer, continues to assert that the contract will be fulfilled. As a result, the customer is not being given an opportunity to mitigate risk and you are very well aware of the reputational damage this failure will cause.

Underlying this series there is a bigger question, which relates to whether ‘professionalism’ demands a clear code of conduct and sets ethical standards for practitioners; and whether a condition of being ‘licensed to practice’ depends on adherence to this code.

Please share your thoughts and suggestions for action!

3 Comments
  1. Bruce Gahir permalink

    This is a very interesting dilemma that you pose.”Licenced to practice” exactly what content of this demands the agent to exercise ethical consciousness? One could say that the motive of such professionalism is the motive for profit rather that the more broader viewpoint of trust and the understanding of the other…as Kant would say…”putting yourself in the other’s shoes”..The “…customer is not being given an opportunity to mitigate risk…” there are isses of responsibility at stake, a broader responsibility of the contractor to ensure that there are future projects that may be at risk. The narrow point of view of immediate profits can only be eradicated, I think, if there is a decision taken by the training of contract managers to bring ethical training into their practice by the use of such scenarios and continually update this training.

    Bruce Gahir

  2. A professional would not remain silent if invited to the meeting with the customer. There is a clear responsibility to advise the customer of the risk of not meeting the deadline. As Bruce noted, it allows the customer to do what he can to reduce his own damage. And the customer may have others to whom he has made commitments.

    The word “professional” implies a standard that puts the customer first, including being honest with the customer and keeping the customer informed. I think that’s one of the things being “professed” (along with expertise and competence).

    Professionalism is an attitude that may be applied to any job, from cleaning toilets, to flipping burgers, to running a nation.

  3. P.S. I had a similar incident at work. The downtime procedure was not ready before we implemented, and there was a scheduled downtime in the first week of implementation. I was told that someone else would mention this to the customer. They didn’t. So I did. Caused some issues for me, but I was not fired, and the customer appreciated it.

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