According to Terris (2013), despite the notion that Lockheed Martin has many strong sides to its ethics, there are still significant limitations and gaps related to the broader structure of the ethics industry. I agree with Terris’s notion regarding Lockheed’s ethics program and its poor ability to prevent ethical breaches at the highest level of the organization. Lockheed Martin’s ethics program focuses on people, not systems. Focusing on the experience of a living individual is attractive and beneficial in many ways. Nevertheless, the impact of a company like Lockheed Martin is more than the accumulation of millions of basic dignity acts performed by 130,000 employees (Terris, 2013). It is also the effect of the company as a powerful entity or a group of powerful entities. Lockheed Martin’s efforts to reach 130,000 employees are novel but inadequate. It prospers not in the heart of a lonely person but in the spirit of a group company that the company values.
Making sure higher-level executives participate in training is not enough to help executives navigate ‘ethical minefields.’ On the other hand, personal integrity and strong support for ethics programs are not the same mechanisms for maintaining continued integrity at the top of the company’s board of directors. Executive support may be required for a successful ethics program, but such assistance ensures that the same executives act in the company’s best interests in making decisions (Terris, 2013). After all, it is perfectly possible for someone to give the ethics program as wide a range of public support as possible while routinely violating ethical standards in their daily work. Even though this might be perceived as hypocrisy, any solid ethical program should be prepared for it.
Perhaps a more common situation involves a gradual but constant loss of values as a result of stress at work. The CEO can enter a position with a strong set of principles and beliefs only to find values and beliefs that the situation has eroded. Claiming that the leader’s commitment to Norman Augustine, Vance Kofman, or other Lockheed Martin ethics programs is only a necessary starting point undermines their personal integrity and dedication (Terris, 2013). The programs they create focus on the actions of CEOs and other senior executives, skeptically dismiss their words, and focus more enthusiastically on their actions for long-term effectiveness.
In order to address the issue related to ethics at higher executive levels of the organization, Lockheed Martin could undertake several things. The company can create an ethics program that addresses the challenges faced by executives and the level of complexity of their work. Lockheed Martin has taken a small step in the right direction by creating an ethics tool for leaders, a program for the company’s 15,000 managers (Terris, 2013). However, this syllabus is aimed at mid-career managers and focuses on HR management rather than a broader issue of power and authority. Perhaps executives spend less time on the compliance module, spend more time analyzing examples that are directly related to decision-making at their level, and criticize past decisions to act for future learning.
The company can give the ethics office a larger and more formal role in advising and monitoring the behavior of executives. Informal consultations are useful but most useful for those who want to carefully consider potential ethical issues. The more formal structure of this type of communication provides another way to prevent problems before they occur. The corporation should appoint directors with special expertise in corporate ethics. Such nominations will enhance the appearance of independent reviews by the Audit and Ethics Board, if not substantive (Terris, 2013). Finally, Lockheed Martin might be bolder and more upfront when it comes to defining and publicly addressing rising ethics issues like executive compensation. Although the company’s policy in this (and other growing areas) may be ethically sound, this can only be proven via open debate of the issues at hand. Such transparency, incidentally, could boost employee morale while also boosting public confidence in the company’s ability to tackle challenging issues.
When it comes to collective action, the company’s massive effort falls short, leaving Lockheed Martin vulnerable. The company does not place enough emphasis on group dynamics, which can have an ethical impact. It could take one of two approaches to address these issues. First, the ethics program’s training and modules may address group dynamics issues more directly. The ethics awareness program’s discussion-based approach is a solid start, but the atomization of most of the training modules, which are completed by individuals on their own laptops, emphasizes individual decision-making. A greater understanding of group decision-making would help to reduce reliance on the heroic person. Second, by deconstructing earlier incidents of collective misbehavior and providing candid assessments of the current atmosphere, the ethics and business conduct division might play a more direct role in assisting units in auditing and assessing vulnerabilities in their organizational culture.
Terris, D. (2013). Ethics at work. Brandeis University Press. Web.