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Martha McCasky Case

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Martha McCaskey

Martha McCaskey was a 29-year-old Harvard MBA graduate and has been working for Seleris's division, Industry Analysis Division, for the last eighteen months. She has successfully completed her first two assignments earning high reviews from her bosses, Malone and Richardson. McCaskey is on her next assignment and is facing tough decisions that can have legal ramifications and could be detrimental to her career.

McCaskey has been assigned the Silicon 6 project. This is a very high profile consulting assignment for one of Seleris biggest and oldest client. Seleris's client was a semiconductor manufacturer based in California, was trying to identify the cost structure and manufacturing technologies of a new chip produced by one of its competitors (Harvard Businesss School, 2004). The client requested not to contact the target company to avoid potential allegations of price fixing (Harvard Businesss School, 2004). Malone and Richardson approached McCaskey to handle this new assignment given her knowledge in electrical engineering. They felt that McCaskey was an extraordinary employee due to her creativity and success in completing difficult and detailed projects. She was also promised a promotion to group manager after the completion of this assignment. McCaskey was already overworked and burnt out from working long hours and not being able to take any vacation in the last nine months. She tackled this project with the same earnest as the previous ones. The issues she was facing with this assignment were the ability to get the desired information without breaching any legal territory. One of the issues was getting the desired information from a competitor, which could be considered proprietary. The other dilemma was paying off Phil Devon who was a semiconductor industry consultant who had worked in the competitor's West Coast operations 12 years earlier (Harvard Businesss School, 2004). McCaskey approached this assignment the normal route by contacting equipment manufacturers, suppliers and semiconductor manufacturers. They did not offered any information to McCaskey and she was feeling impatient and pressured to deliver. She tried to get some direction from Malone, but could not give her direction. Malone was more concerned about delivering at whatever cost. The employees knew him as a money-grabbing and aggressive guy. McCaskey had found that it was a common practice for IAD to reach out to ex-employees of target companies and hired them as consultants for $4,000 to $5,000 a day. Although this was a normal practice for many consulting firms, it was required for consulting firms to identify themselves as working for the firm before beginning an interview (Harvard Businesss School, 2004). IAD did not have any written policies and the head of the division, Richardson, said that they do not practice anything unethical. For McCaskey, it was hard to work on this assignment without having clear and written procedures about information gathering. She had to rely on her gut to guide her on ethical decisions.

There are couple of problems with IAD. They do not have formal procedures in place and they use McCaskey to set up new standards. For example, when McCaskey completed the written report before the client presentation. This became the standard within the division (Harvard Businesss School, 2004). Managers practiced unethical decisions in order to get information even if this meant manipulating the concept of proprietary information. For example, Hackert was known as a strict manager who prided himself on running a tight shop and on his ability to get the job done, no matter what it took. If someone was willing to talk about it, then it was not proprietary (Harvard Businesss School, 2004). Therefore, the senior associates and group managers did not have role models and were focus only on getting the job done in order to please their managers. Trevino and Nelson says, "if individuals are rewarded for meeting goals no matter what methods are used, they're much likely to try methods that cross the line between ethical and unethical behavior." (Trevino & Nelson, 2010). Kaufmann was a good example of this. He had a reputation for working on "sleaze" projects using questionable ways because he wanted to please his managers with hopes of someday getting promoted to group manager. McCaskey followed this culture and mimic the same ways even though she felt uncomfortable with many of IAD's practices.

Executive leaders affect culture in both formal and informal ways. Senior leaders can create, maintain or change formal and informal cultures systems by what they say, do, or support (Trevino & Nelson, 2010). The ethical culture of IAD was aggressive and fast faced. As it was mentioned before, there were not procedures and codes of conduct in place. Everyone is focused on getting the job done at whatever cost. Also, there was not unity among the senior associates and group managers. The division was divided into two sub-groups, "the old-guard" and "the new guard". When it came to sharing information, each group was very protective and uncooperative. Making it harder to finish an assignment. Malone and Richardson wanted to be in control and although there was chain of command, roles and reporting relationships among the professional staff were loosely defined (Harvard Businesss School, 2004). Senior associates discussed the status of projects with Malone or Richardson instead of the group managers. The role of project leader could either be given to the group manager or senior associates depending on the informal bargaining process. This would only exaggerate the lack of formal structure in IAD.

In order to handle this situation, I could exercise my voice. Although the norm in this division was to deceive target companies in order to get information, I would be honest to Devon about my intentions of interviewing him: I want to identify the cost structure and manufacturing technologies of a new chip (Harvard Businesss School, 2004). Also, Devon would know that he would get compensated for his consulting work. I would also talk to Malone and Richardson and shared with them that I am planning to be honest with Devon. I would make sure that they understand that in order for the division to avoid any legal implication is to be honest and forthcoming with our source of information to the client. The benefit of this approach is the client would know that they hired a team that values integrity and followed an ethical path. Malone and Richardson would see me with integrity and someone who can make sound judgments. These are good qualifications to have as a group manager. The disadvantage with this approach is that the client would reject it. They made it clear that



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