Professor Gioia explains the fact that, in his role as Ford's recall coordinator, he did not recognize the enormity/ethical implications of the Pinto Fires because: (1) he was relying, like all humans, on automatic, script-based "thinking," and this script did not come with a "now think" alert; and (2) the culture of his group was such that he “came to accept the idea that it was not feasible to fix everything that someone might construe as a problem. I therefore shifted to a value of wanting to do the most good for the greatest number.” His suggestion to others: decide on your values; and help people build "now think" alerts into their scripts. Do you buy his diagnosis? And do you agree with his prescription?
I accept that group think played a big part in the decision peocess, but I'm suprised that they took such a short sighted view. The Ford brand was more important than the introduction of the Pinto. Even in the late 60's and early 70's Ford must have had some folks evaluating overall risk to the firm, such as reputation, liability (beyound their simple cost metric), and long term customer trust. I suppose that reviewing these risks as part of the process fits into his prescription.
Post by Katie Richards on Sept 17, 2015 22:02:34 GMT
I think it is interesting that the recaller's post point of view delves so deeply into the psychiatry of scripts/schemas. This does not align with his past work experience, so it makes me think that he went to great lengths to legitimize the whole scenario. He actively looked for ways to explain his lack of action. Motivation seems suspect so I am not sure I buy his diagnosis.
Post by Kevin Gochett on Sept 18, 2015 1:25:19 GMT
I'm not sure I buy his diagnosis with this case. Prior to his position with Ford, he never had any issues making ethical decisions. What concerns me about this is that once he came into that position, suddenly his values changed. I understand the nature and culture of his position and that using script schemas helps him complete his job without going crazy. However, one can only think that despite those scripts telling you to look over small matters, your values and ethical standings would tell you something is wrong when you have information before you with descriptions of people losing their lives in small traffic collisions. Anytime a life is lost, it's a serious matter. Like Katie Richards' stated in her post, either Gioia is making excuses for his extremely poor performance, or there's an underling issue within himself with regards to what he does or doesn't value.
Post by Jessi Quillen on Sept 18, 2015 2:47:44 GMT
I do not agree that Professor Gioia was relying on script schemas to the point where he could not identify when it would an important time to think. As the vehicle recall coordinator, he was, as he put it, "dealing with some of the most serious problems in the company". If he wasn't thinking, I don't think he was a proper fit for the job. I do believe he was victim to his second diagnosis of wanting to do the most good for the greatest number. However, his decisions also stemmed from a shift in his outlook of corporations as a whole. At one point, Professor Gioia states "it looks different from the inside", and "over time, a reasonable value for action against corporate dominance became tempered by another reasonable value that corporations serve social needs and are not automatically villains of society". Professor Gioia claims he began to have a more corporate identity, rather than identifying with the victims of the accidents or realizing the severity of the situation that those outside of Ford recognized. I do agree with his prescription though. Deciding now to make ethical decisions will increase your awareness of self and surrounding.
No, I do not buy his diagnosis or agree with his prescription. In Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker article, The Engineer's Lament, the author seems to agree, to some extent, with Gioia's explanation about why he did not pursue a more strident case for recalling the car (He did put the Pinto case "on the docket," which was part of the recall process.). This agreement echoes Gioia's assertion that he was using a script schema of an auto engineer and one of Ford's corporate culture. Within the former assertion, the metrics that engineers use to quantify performance suggested that the Pinto was not defective, and therefore dangerous because of a defect, in a way that was statistically significant. Gladwell opines that this is a reasonable way of seeing the world. Based on the ways in which engineers see a thing that has been engineered, the Pinto was no more dangerous than other compact class cars. Indeed, there were other such models that were more dangerous than the Pinto, although the Pinto had more deaths attributed to it in cases where a car caught on fire. In the latter assertion, corporate culture at Ford created a script that meant Gioia had to do the most good for the greatest amount of projects and people. The problem I have with either assertion is that they allow Gioia to divorce himself from culpability, complicity and consequence. And while this may be human nature, while it may be a coping mechanism, it seems too convenient from a self-professed activist two years removed from his bleeding heart principals. That, like Gioia himself noted in his reflections on the case, calls into question the validity of those self assumptions. Regardless whether he didn't know himself or what his values were before taking a job in the not-always-pleasant corporate world, to armor yourself with the schemas of your degree, title and vocation and claim a corporate culture played a significant part in not raising more red flags seems to me to be clutching for something in the hopes it takes the heat off of you, no pun intended.
Post by Tyler McCamish on Sept 20, 2015 17:24:25 GMT
I also read the New Yorker article several years ago. "http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/04/the-engineers-lament" if anyone would like to read, I would recomend. We studied this case as part of an engineering ethics class I took during undergrad.
As an engineer, I live in a word of data driven decisions. At my work I'm taught to ignore feelings and opinions and "follow the data" to reach solutions to problems. I think Gioia was simply following the data. I don't think he did anything wrong. Perhaps it's because I can sympathize with him as an engineer in a large company. I buy his diagnosis.
Post by Nicholas Mohr on Sept 22, 2015 11:43:22 GMT
This is certainly a tough topic to discuss as it appears from several comments. Personally,I understand the diagnosis and can agree with it. I hate the outcome from it, but understand it. A part of the schema everyone is talking about involves Gioia changing his values for the corporate side. We talked about the affect of perception on an individuals performance, there is also a great deal of influence that the roles and responsibilities of a position can have on an individual. It is why people can seem to change so much when they are a fantastic and well-loved sales person, for example, and they get promoted to sales manager or another position. The different responsibilities and roles can greatly affect the individuals actions and performance. One of the lines in Gladwell's article towards the end was that Gioia never saw a pattern of failure, which was the responsibility of his role, and that the Pinto case was a "rare subset of a rare subset of traffic accidents". As Gioia mentioned, to put something on the docket the case usually required twenty accidents and the Pinto never got above five while Gioia managed the file. From the roles and responsibilities, it would be crazy to make a case for the Pinto. But Gioia did go to the chamber of horrors and see the wreck and came back to put the case on the docket, which if anything establishes Gioia still has those bleeding-heart values (I realize he inevitably voted against the case later, unable to prove his point to the team, but I think it is worthy to note, when he left the numbers and responsibility even temporariliy he had not lost his values).
Without rambling too much I wanted to tag off what Tyler said, I too read this article in an engineering ethics course, and as well understand the pressure to look at the numbers. I remember in the discussion of that class it was brought up the circumstances of the Ulrich crash, and how much of an emotional "tug" happens to hear that someone died being engulfed by flames, which has a drastically different and stronger "tug" than the simple someone died in an auto accident. People die in auto accidents all the time and there is not as strong of an emotional response as hearing someone died in an auto accident in a fire. It urges an even stronger "tug" to establish that the accident was preventable, and our trigger response to associate blame kicks in. It would not have mattered if the girls were driving a Pinto that burst into flames or a Vega or VW Beetle that burst in to flames, the emotional response would have been the same, and the backlash would be about equal: "Why wasn't this prevented?","Who could allow a car on the road susceptable to explosion at under 30 mph?".
I agree Ford commited a transgression of fibbing safety reports,delaying a recall, and it was certainly questionable to try and establish the acceptable loss of life and put a monetary value to life, but I understand the case of Gioia. Long winded, but something to be considered.
I actually buy it. I would add that he was on a "fast-track" up the corporate ladder, so he wouldn't want to make any unnecessary waves, but the fact is, when lots of decisions have to be made in a timely manner, scripting is a must, and stopping to think is discouraged. In the military, that is the whole idea of basic training, tech schools and annual certifications. They teach you to run scripts for every possible situation so that when the time comes to act, you don't have to stop and think, "Now how do I do that?", or, sadly, "Should I do that?"
That is why I also agree with his idea of adding a routine step to think about the consequences in some decisions that have the possibility of death. Not all of them, of course, but in this case, had he been prompted to consider social or ethical issues, perhaps he would have judged that these wrecks and the resulting deaths were worse than other wrecks resulting in deaths in other cars.
I feel the real issue might be the fact that he was not out of college very long and hadn't been working there enough to be seasoned. He was very motivated to move up the ladder, and he was in a position that had a lot of responsibility for his years in the company. Perhaps that is why he leaned so heavily on scripting.
Post by Heather Russell-Simmons on Sept 22, 2015 22:12:11 GMT
I understand the role of corporate group think and use of schemas and scripts to drive profits, but I find it hard to believe that a social activist would check his values at the door of Ford's recall division so easily. Perhaps his advice, in retrospect, to decide your values now and build "now think" alerts into scripts should have more merit... he's speaking from difficult experience. But I find it a little too convenient for him to look back and blame the past system while lecturing the public about how to behave better in the future. Hadn't he decided his values as an activist student? Didn't he decide to ignore those values in a quest to move up the corporate ladder? I think that shift in mentality played a bigger role in his decision to ignore the ethical implications of exploding cars than "script-based thinking" or a bottom line philosophy that you can't fix *everything*. The issue wasn't a faulty blinker. Cars. Were. Exploding. Maybe I buy his diagnosis, but the message is lost on the source.
I think Gioia read just enough Psychology books to find a smidgen of justification for inaction and incompetence. Just because there wasn't a huge amount of explosions, there were still explosions. People were losing their lives in these death traps and it shouldn't take a large amount of reports before action is taken. I realize company resources need to be rationed and "it was not feasible to fix everything that someone might construe as a problem", but what else does it take for somebody to sound the alarm?
While it is possible that Professor Gioia may have went along with group think in this situation, I believe that he was more focused on trying to save the Ford Motor Company money by ignoring the problem at hand. The much needed $11 safety improvement had been documented, along with the high possibility of the car exploding if it was hit in the rear during crash testing. Despite this, the car was still produced and no improvements were made although there were instances across the U.S. of Pintos exploding after rear end collisions. In the end, this seems like an excuse in order to make the decision made a little less unethical. The company was comparing the costs of fixing the problem to the costs of each life lost in these accidents, along with potential lawsuits and then used that information to determine whether a change was needed. After reading up on this topic, I am surprised that the Ford Motor Company was able to recover from unethical decisions such as these. I do agree with Gioia that people should think about what is going on around them, but when deciding upon values everyone should consider ethics.
I can understand to some extent how someone eager to rise through the ranks at Ford could get caught up in group think. And I can even understand how someone trying to take a data-driven approach would use a formula - provided by a government agency, no less - to perform a cost-benefit analysis on deciding to perform the necessary repairs. But for someone who describes how virtuous his ethics were before he joined the company, I agree with the other posters who believe he's trying to find justification after the fact for a massive ethical failure.
Post by Rhonda Killingsworth on Sept 23, 2015 14:36:43 GMT
When a person enters a new work environment, they tend to watch and learn about the culture of the new organization, and will at times alter their behavior to "fit in" and be accepted as a new member to the team. Since Professor Gioia had no ethical issues prior to his arrival in this position, something about the culture at Ford must have affected his thinking. Even with wanting to fit in, if that was the case, or be seen as a team player, he should have maintained his ethical behavior and done what was right for the preservation of human life. In the long run it would have been better for the company if he had and lives could have been saved.
Thanks for the perceptive comments, folks. As you can see from the comments, the issue of whether Gioia could credibly claim that he was on auto-pilot-- and that all of us are much of the time similarly on auto-pilot-- is contentious. The fact that humans rely on schemas/scripts cannot be denied. The question is: are we slaves to scripts? Or can we engage in conscious, mindful thinking, even it is effortful. When the stakes are high-- e.g., airline pilots-- we in fact try to endow people with the right scripts (rather than ask them to engage in effortful thinking, which is especially hard once you are in the high-pressure situation), one approach is to design scripts for the scenario (e.g., the US military spends a good deal of money trying to help soldiers build the right kind of script for dealing with high-pressure scenarios-- such as what to do when under fire working in a remote Afghani village with many civilians and some bad guys-- so that soldiers can turn to the scripted behavior rather than trying to think in the moment). But, still, this does not obviate the possibility that the wrong script may be employed; or it may be employed too late, etc. Human decision making is far from perfect, even when people are well-intentioned and vigilant. One can either take this imperfection into account and build systems that try to compensate for it; or one can remain idealistic and insist that people are sovereign over their own mind and should think when thinking is required.