Oaths of Office

I was recently listening to a BBC podcast which asked how much blame for the global financial crisis should be attached to MBA programmes (You too can listen to it by clicking here, should you be interested, and believe me it is worth it). To summarise, in case you can’t bothered to listen to it, or don’t have time, people in charge of MBA programmes (or MBA programs, as it probably ought to be since they focus on the US and especially Harvard), feel that their only failing was that the model of risk assessment that was taught has proved to be deficient. Others, meanwhile, say that in fact, MBA programmes taught their graduates to put shareholders interests ahead of anything else, and in fact in one damning piece of research quoted (conducted by the Aspen Institute), students entering an MBA were asked what the role of business was and answered that it was to produce goods and services for the community, and by the time they finished the degree had changed their primary answer to “maximising shareholder value”.

Anyway, one of the things that was raised on the show was the MBA Oath, which is something that has been put together by some students to try and make graduates of such programmes more responsible leaders and managers. You can find the full text of the oath here.

As someone who teaches/trains on a post-graduate course for managers (though not an MBA, but the IDLTM), I wondered how much relevance this has for me and for those students I work with. Now, I don’t for a moment think that myself and my colleagues who teach on the course have been focussed on maximising shareholder value and profit, and in fact I suspect we do a good job of making sure managers who go through the course are fully focussed on the teachers, admin staff and other employees, and by extension the learners who are at the heart of any language teaching business.

Also, in general, as a profession, I think many school owners and managers do tend to be more people than money oriented.  This doesn’t apply to every school, and I’m sure we’ve all experienced LTOs (language teaching organisations) which are very much focussed on advancing the financial status of the owner

Having said that, however, I think it’s never a bad idea to examine (and re-examine) the way things are done and the ethics and moral choices that lie behind the things that we do.  The more I look at that oath, though, the more it seems self-evident (and only serves to highlight what a problem was being created by traditional MBAs in that some of those things had to be stated)

So, here, rather than trying to apply a set of platitudes of the “obey the law” and “think about things other than just personal profit” type, I’d like to come up with a list of commitments that LTO owners and even perhaps DOSs (or other middle managers) might want to keep pinned to their office wall. I have decided to take a leaf out of Ken Wilson‘s book and start this off as an open thread for commenters to make their suggestions –  I do have a few ideas myself, but rather than pre-empt things, I will, for now, keep my powder dry and see if people reading this would like to suggest some items of their own.

So, over to you!

Posted in Ethics. Tags: . 8 Comments »