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I'll Never Do That Again!

Monday, December 20, 2010   (1 Comments)
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by William Dorman CMC

The first referral I received from IMC USA, c.1990, was from a medium-size printing plant outside of Philadelphia. The CEO needed a consultant who could help them assess their operation and recommend upgrades from letterpress printing to offset printing and digital color scanners. At the time I was considered an industry expert in such matters. Piece of cake, right?

I telephoned and made a visit to do the study. After our meeting to finalize the study scope and outcomes, I was about to leave and start work when the CEO asked me to "check up on his brother”. As it turns out he and his brother – who owned half of the business and was in charge of order fulfillment – were not on speaking terms. This had been going on for over a year! The CEO said that shipments were slipping. He believed his brother may have been sabotaging the business with the hope of discrediting his leadership as CEO and "trying to get the Board of Directors to appoint him as CEO”. (The Board was made up of two other family members and two outsiders.)

The CEO went on to say that his brother was wasting time and money by not taking a real interest in the company. He wanted "solid evidence” so that he could convince the Board to get him out. However, he didn’t want his brother to know that I was assessing him. The CEO said that I would be paid very well for this information in addition to the study fee.

To say the least, this was an extraordinary request and clearly outside the scope of what I planned to do and, in my view, was not ethical to undertake this "clandestine” effort.

What would you do?

1. Take the job including "assessing” the brother since it paid well even though the CEO was not being aboveboard.

2. Take the job of assessing current operations and new hardware requirements but refuse to provide information about his brother except information specifically related to the assessment.

3. Refuse the job and recommend that the CEO solve the problem with his brother first since any improvements or upgrades would not necessarily enhance the company’s long term sustainability until the discord was resolved.

4. Something else? (Please explain.)

Comment below and let’s see how many consultants agree on a course of action.

Comments...

Carl O. Rowe CMC says...
Posted Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I don't see how the decision could be anything other than #3. The job is already tainted and regardless of how assiduously the consultant might conduct himself, he would have no control over how his resulting report would be "spun" by the feuding brothers. That having been said, however, the real issue here is the fact that a prospective client has committed an ethical lapse. Ethical lapses are not situational; they go to the core of a person's character. So, unless the consultant is a qualified shrink and gets agreement from the client to work on the client's integrity issues, instead of a company assessment, the consultant has no choice but to walk away -- quickly.

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