I was doing some research today on who and where the readers to this blog are coming from. A little attention can cause that kind of navel gazing…
I am sorry that I missed this response to a comment I made on David Maister’s blog back in October. David Maister is “The Man” when it comes to writing, speaking and consulting on professional services firms. (Unlike Jay Lorsch from HBS, who gets mixed reviews…) His books were the ones my KPMG Consulting mentors pointed to when they said, “Here’s what you need to know to be a consultant,” and “Here’s how we do business.”
From Maister’s blog, People Passion Principles
post # 223 — Wednesday, October 25, 2006 — a Strategy post
Guns for Hire
“There’s been a lot of discussion about leading PR firm Edelman’s involvement in something that transgressed many people’s sense of ethics – creating a blog consistently favorable to Wal-Mart without disclosing Wal-Mart’s (or Edelman’s) involvement… I have discussed this a thousand times with professional providers, but very, very few think they are “allowed” by their firms to walk away from a paying customer because they didn’t like what he or she was doing.
I like to make a sort of game of it:
Would your firm walk away if you didn’t like the client?
What if he or she was trying to do something you didn’t believe in?
What if he or she was doing something unethical?
The answers are close to uniform: most individuals inside most firms feel an overwhelming pressure to ignore all these considerations but the last – and many will play games with “I didn’t know what was going on” on that one too.”
My comment, which was posted under the title “Hired Guns” is here.
His response to me starts as follows:
David (Maister) said:
Your final point could not be more important nor profound, Francine. Please forgive me if I repeat YOUR point. When a firm slips into the “Poor me, I have to prostitute myself to make money” it opens the floodgates to many other forms of unprincipled, “self-justifying” behavior.
There are CONSEQUENCES when leaders create an atmosphere that says “we can’t afford to have standards.” Ethical breaches start happening in BOTH directions – firms feel that they can’t say “No!” to clients (and we end up with scandals) and, as you say, Francine, firms feel they have permission to cross the line in their own behavior…”