We are all understandably and justifiably horrified at how the Health Service Executive (HSE) handled the failures and the fallout from the cervical check debacle here in Ireland.
It is impossible to imagine the pain and anxiety suffered by so many women affected by this.
It can seem equally impossible to understand how HSE Management behaved as they did.
And yet, shocking as it may sound, HSE Management were only doing what Management in most Organisations see as their remit – to look after the welfare of their Organisation.
Rather than admit the mistake, face and share the truth, they fought tooth and nail to hide the truth and to challenge anyone and everyone who tried to get at it.
Not an isolated incident
We can find similar striking examples like Banks, Volkswagen, Facebook, the Catholic Church, where management were caught out and ultimately paid the price for single-mindedly pursuing the welfare of their Organisation at the expense of customers, employees and society in general.
Naturally, we jump on these offenders and, quite rightly, condemn them.
What we fail to see or acknowledge is that the vast majority of companies are focused on the welfare of their own Organisations to the detriment of others but never get caught out. At least not yet.
No more than a focus on my own individual well-being at the expense of everybody else around me is foolhardy and self-destructive, we equally need to learn –and learn fast– that companies who only focus on their own welfare –profits, share price, return on investment– will do harm and are doing harm, whether or not they are caught out.
As managers and leaders, we need to find the resources, the courage, the honesty and the vision to go after real goods, things that are good for everybody and for society as a whole.
Until we learn to do that, we will find ourselves equally appalled and shocked at more and more examples of horrific shortfalls from a narrow, individualistic focus on the welfare of one’s own organisation.
Who’s going to throw the first stone here?