HW1-1-resource2 -...

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Kenneth L. Carper's Commentary on "Owning up to a Failure" The fundamental moral concept of honesty is at stake in this case study. Norm Nash, representing the position of management, has made the decision to deny the possibility of a defective product. This decision has been made on the basis of public image and ignores the technical opinion given by Walt Winters, one of the firm's engineers. Winter's silence is probably appropriate in the first meeting with the client. His position is one of technical support, not public relations. Also, his suspicions are not yet confirmed, and a preliminary contradiction of Nash's statement is unwarranted. Winters is correct in raising his objections directly with Nash following the meeting with the client. Norm Nash's reaction is unfortunate. Walt Winters should be distressed by this reaction. His first move should be to disassemble the equipment to confirm his diagnosis, if possible. If the evidence supports his hypothesis, he should then press Nash vigorously to deal honestly with the client. While this one experience with one executive may not be indicative of the attitudes of all management executives in the corporation, Winter should observe corporate management decisions carefully for other moral deficiencies. The expression that this is merely a "management problem" of little concern to technical staff can lead to serious consequences. If management decisions routinely overrule factual technical information, placing public relations over honesty, the stage has been set for potential moral disaster. There are many examples from all engineering disciplines. One well documented case is the Morton Thiokol treatment of the events leading up to the Challenger Space Shuttle accident (Boisjoly 1987). and XYZ is firmly established, based on years of reliable service. An honest admission of equipment failure will not damage such a relationship. Confidence is built, not destroyed, by honesty and integrity. This client is left with unanswered questions: Is this an equipment deficiency? Is it an installation problem? Has the breakdown occurred due to operator error or improper maintenance? These unanswered questions may lead to suspicions. Unanswered questions are far more likely to undermine client confidence than an honest admission of potential manufacturing defects. And Nash has already agreed to replace the equipment at no cost to the customer. What possible economic cost could honesty demand beyond this?
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It is precisely the lack of economic cost that makes this case so disturbing. The lessons for Winters, potentially a future manager, are clear: If honesty can be compromised in such a trivial instance, why should one insist on integrity when the costs are high? Honesty is not always this inexpensive. Sometimes it costs a great deal. When the stakes are high, surely it will be easier to dismiss moral
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This note was uploaded on 09/13/2011 for the course EE 1101 taught by Professor Hendr during the Spring '11 term at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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HW1-1-resource2 -...

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