Ed Lazowska, our IBTE Conversation partner in this issue of Ethix (p. 6), will be well-known to many of our readers from the world of information technology and computer science. For others, this will be a first opportunity to meet one of the leading minds at the cutting edge of his field. Lazowska’s look at the future of technology and his comments on information technology vis-à-vis terrorism, business, and education are both intriguing and insightful.
In our essay section, former DeLoitte & Touche CPA, now financial consultant, Greg Zegarowski contributes a “Report Card on Financial Reporting,” (p. 10). Al’s Technology Watch (p. 4) looks at critical factors in the success or failure of large-scale information systems in business. David’s Benchmark Ethics (p. 15) makes an argument for what should be at or near the top of any company’s list of ethical principles.
By the way, for those of you who have thought about writing something for Ethix, we have prepared some brief “Guidelines for Writers” you can find posted at our web site (www.ethix.org).
Speaking of our web site, some 80,000 hits set a new high this fall for one month’s activity at ethix.org. We continue to tinker with our web site to make it as helpful as possible and we welcome your input on how both our web site and our magazine can better serve you.
As we send this issue to press, we are also reflecting on the close of 2002. This has been a banner year for business ethics violations, placing them almost continuously front and center in the nightly news. Many have talked with us about what a great opportunity this should be for us here at the Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics. “Business ethics is a growth industry,” people sometimes joke. We are not rejoicing.
First, many innocent people–from investors to customers to employees–have been hurt. Ethics is not an abstract philosophical game; it is about protecting people from harm. For the victims of unethical practices, this has been a terrible year. Second, the constant bad news, even though it concerns a small minority of businesses, has a cumulative impact that raises the level of cynicism among people, especially the young. This is not easily reversed. Third, the kind of business ethics that is prominent in this context is “damage control” ethics in its most extreme form. True triage is required.
As Greg Zegarowski’s essay suggests, better systems and regulations may result from these troubling times and that would certainly be welcome. But the best that could come out of this situation would be a serious and widespread look at a richer, deeper, more positive kind of values and ethics — what we call “mission control ethics”: value-embedded company cultures and principle-guided practices that promote and sustain business excellence.
We look forward to a better year in 2003. Happy New Year!