What is The Ethical Firm?

The Ethical Firm 723

The Ethical Firm is a theoretical, utopian construct that I have created to help us challenge the status quo.  I intend to use this construct to explore new ways of thinking about employee engagement and leadership.  I hope that this will help me guide my own clients to live and work better in this, our flawed but practical, real world.

The Ethical Firm is founded on a central ethical principle – that of non-exploitation.  It is a central principle that no worker, employee, owner, or stakeholder should be exploited, or prevented from being fulfilled in their lives, for the sake of either the ‘higher good’ of the firm itself, or for other stakeholders in the firm.  In The Ethical Firm, no one in the firm has a higher claim to such fulfillment as any other.

What I know so far is that The Ethical Firm is set in a post Shareholder-Capitalist world.  We are approaching that world faster than I think most of us appreciate.  I grew up in a world where ‘maximizing shareholder value’ was assumed to be a self-evident truth.  However, we now know that its dominion can be traced from when Jack Welsh declared it his goal for GE in 1981, to when the same Jack Welsh, in 2009, admitted that it was a ‘dumb idea’.  Even the role of the IPO in company financing is changing, with firms waiting longer before their owners cash out into the stock market.

What I also know about The Ethical Firm is that it is a Lean firm.  Lean has two fundamental pillars – continuous improvement, and what is often quoted as ‘respect for people’.  I have recently become to see this as not respect as in being polite to one another, and listening to worker’s opinions.  I have come to see it as saying that Lean is a humanist system, and that a Lean firm is first and foremost about fulfilling each employee’s life as a human being.

I am still discovering other aspects of The Ethical Firm.  What I do know about it though is that it is a great place to work, and that it is accepting applications now!

Paul Osborn

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