The Demand of Accountability: Secretary Mattis

The military had a botched mission in Niger.  Four Green Berets were killed.  The team had been left in desolate Africa without support and adequate equipment.  They were killed by Islamic State fighters. Following an investigation and report, several junior officers were reprimanded.  The Defense Department has been at th investigation and discipline for 14 months. When General Mattis was informed of the focus on junior officers, he was angry and sent everyone back to add accountability to the senior levels officers. However, the officers immediately above the junior officers were not reprimanded.  

A review found that the senior officers were allowed to investigate themselves.  The result was that the problems in Africa Command, including hostilities, lack of communication, warring power fiefdoms, poor planning for the mission, and lack of full disclosure about the nature and risk of the mission.  It was labeled as a meeting with tribal leaders.  Counterterrorism operations did not make its way into the planning documents. 

Following a teleconference about the report, General Mattis ordered everyone back to the drawing board.  The result has been that senior leaders have now been reprimanded, and at least one junior officer has had his reprimand lifted.  The request by the Green Beret team to return to base because they did not have sufficient intelligence or equipment was ordered to continue. In short, leaders knew of the problems and allowed the operation to continue.  

Businesses are like the military.  When something goes wrong on the front lines, the manager closest to the employees is disciplined, and often too quickly before understanding what was really going on.  They terminate the salesperson and his manager for hacking into a competitor’s website.  The failure to ask the question, “What and who motivated that kind of behavior?” leaves the bad actors in place.  The root cause of behavior is often well up the chain.  Those up the chain sit in judgment and click their tongues at such unethical behavior.  They conduct the investigation.  But another set of eyes, a CEO with Mattis experience and insight demands something more by asking:  Where did we up here in the rarefied air fail? 

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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