1 November 2009

The MBA Oath

You may have heard of a Harvard University initiative to get MBAs to sign up to an oath on responsible value creation.  I found it via Mike Clayton's blog.

Here it is;


As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:

I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.

I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.

I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.

I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.

I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.

I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.

I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.

I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.

So, what do you think?

I think it's a nice initiative, but you shouldn't be betting your house on a shift in ethical behaviour by the people who sign on.

As a sceptic, I presume this initiative is more PR than anything else.

On the one hand, this voluntary oath is likely to attract people who are going to act relatively ethically anyway.  On the other hand, how's the hippocratic oath doing these days?  Is it working for you?

On the third hand it does make people at least think about the issues they are going to face when dealing with real business challenges.  And we do know that mentally rehersing something can at least partialy prepare you for the real deal of ethical dilemmas.

Back to Mike Clayton.  He's made a call out for project managers to draft their own oahs and publically call them out. I'm pretty comfortable with my values and so I think I'll stand by my actions rather than sign on to a list.

But what about you?

I am particulary interested in hearing how you'd prioritise conflicts between "shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate."

Who wins in a tussle between shareholders, customers anc the community?


  1. Anonymous7:08 pm

    so on adoption of the oath will Harvard be refusing donations and attendance at graduate fairs for those companies such as most banks, that contradict it?

  2. Why stop at MBA oath? What about lawyers, accountants, and all other professions. At the end of the day it is not the oath that makes the person but the person makes the oath. Meaning that if you haven't got the personality to support it no oath in the world is going to hold you back. And by the way, project managers with a PMP certification have a sort-of professional obligation to up-hold certain behaviours. Does anyone really think that just by becoming PMP, all relevant individuals have suddenly become socially responsible?

  3. Wouldn't it be nice to have part of the PMP test require the punters to write up the whole ethics statement from PMI?

    That wuld force people to learn it well.