Monday, January 5, 2015

Hubris and Ethics

By Pascal Dennis

Hubris is the ancient Greek word for arrogance, excessive pride or self-confidence.

Hubris is a common root cause of unethical behavior and, arguably, the most dangerous enemy of great companies.

(Check out this fine book on hubris and the Enron catastrophe entitled The Smartest Guys in the Room.)

What's the countermeasure to hubris?

Humility -- the extreme awareness of limits, of standards, of all that we are not. Humility is one of the Great Virtues, and underlies Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice.

Justice, for example, is only possible if we’re humble enough to accept a higher standard or code.

Visual management, 5 S, standardized work and all the other elements of the Lean business system are designed to keep us humble.

Our old Toyota plant in Cambridge Ontario won many awards. "How could they give us an award?" we'd wonder. "We're so screwed up..."

We need great companies -- they show us what's possible.

And great companies need humility - for the same reason.



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