Business Ethics and Hovercraft Debacle
This week, we looked at two ethical codes— one for the Project Management Institute, and one for Engineers. Appropriate professional behavior, practice, and discipline varies among professions and reflects the needs and values of the professional society in question. In this discussion, you will assume professional roles as we work on a fictional scenario.
It is 2020, and General Foryota Company opens a plant in which to build a new mass-produced hover-craft. This hover-craft will work using E-85 Ethanol, will travel up to 200 mph, and will reduce pollution worldwide at a rate of 10 percent per year. It is likely that when all automobiles in the industrial world have been changed over to hovercrafts, emission of greenhouse gasses may be so reduced that global warming may end and air quality will become completely refreshed.
However, the downside is that during the transition time, GFC’s Hover-Vee (only available in red or black), will most likely put all transportation as we know it in major dissaray. Roadways will no longer be necessary, but new methods of controlling traffic will be required. Further, while the old version of cars are still being used, Hover-vee’s will cause accidents, parking issues, and most likely class envy and warfare. The sticker price on the first two models will be about four times that of the average SUV (to about $200,000.) Even so, GFC’s marketing futurists have let them know that they will be able to pre-sell their first three years of expected production, with a potential waiting list which will take between 15 and 20 years to fill.
The Chief Engineer (CE) of GFC commissions a study on potential liabilities for the Hover-vees. The preliminary result is that Hover-vees will likely kill or maim humans at an increased rate of double to triple over automobile travel because of collisions and crashes at high speeds — projected annual death rates of 100,000 to 200,000. However, global warming will end, and the environment will flourish.
The U. S. Government gets wind of the plans. Congress begins to discuss the rules on who can own and operate Hover-vees. GFC’s stock skyrockets. The Chief Engineer takes the results of the study to the Chief Legal Counsel (CLC), and together they agree to bury the study, going forward with the production plans. The Chief Project Manager (CPM), who has read the study and agreed to bury it, goes ahead and plans out the project for the company, with target dates and production deadlines.
Our class is a team of young lawyers, project managers, engineers, and congressional aides who are all part of the process of helping get this project off the ground. In fact, according to the first letter of your last name, you are the following team:
A-G: Attorney on the GFC team
H-N: Project Manager on the GFC team
0-S: Engineer on the GFC team
T-Z: Congressional Aide
Somebody sent a secret copy of the report to you at your home address. It has no information in it at all, except for the report showing the proof of the increase in accidents and deaths.
The report shows, on its face, that the CE, CLC, CPM, and your Congressional Representative have seen copies of this report. On the front there are these words typed in red: They knew — they buried this.
Please save the world! Each of you feel a very loyal tie to your boss and your company/country.
You all have mortgages, and families to feed. It is likely if you blow the whistle on this report, you will lose your job and your livelihood. You’re not even sure who wrote the study in your envelope or who actually sent it to you.