David Weinberger on Ethics
Citigroup CEO Charles P. Prince, according to an article in Friday's WSJ, intends to make 'values' a key focus.
This is always a cause for concern.
According to the article:
'The world's largest financial-services firm needs to 'internalize' a strong code of ethics around the globe. 'You can't think of this in terms of control,' he explained. 'You can't expect to have policemen lined up along the side of the road saying 'You can't drive here.''
Prince's solution is to internalize the policemen: 'He said yesterday that in the coming year he aimed to lecture employees about internalizing Citigroup rules 'until I'm blue in the face.'' And, he will be 'ruthless' with transgressors.
So, he's not talking about values at all. He's talking about rules. And the problem with rules is that you can't even have internal policemen lined up along the side of the road. Someone is going to drive off road, or the policemen will be confronted with an ambiguous, new situation and will choose to implement their rules foollishly. Only genuine values can handle the interesting cases where people go wrong.
So, It sounds Citigroup, with the CEO lecturing you until he's blue in the face, is going to be a heck of a fun place to work.