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BW Businessworld

The Code Of Conduct

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It was a very tough decision for James E. Burke. In 1982, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson withdrew Tylenol bottles from the market at a cost of $100 million, after seven people died from suspected tampered bottles. Burke faced stiff opposition from within and outside the firm. Burke felt the company's topmost priority was not hitting its quarterly numbers, but ensuring the health and safety of its customers. And in the long run, it paid off; Tylenol regained its stature. How many CEOs will have the same courage today? The MBA Oath: Setting A Higher Standard For Business Leaders(Penguin Portfolio) by Max Anderson and Peter Fischer tries to answer this.

The MBA oath gained popularity in early 2009, and spread quickly among B-schools in the US. It originated in Harvard University and spread among the new generation of leaders who pledged to hold themselves to higher standards than their predecessors. But many felt it was all lip service. This book says it is not. Actually, there is a clear attempt to link managers to the society. The oath is no magic wand, yet it will make managers more acutely aware that their actions have implications for people who live outside their designated silos.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 18-10-2010)