“The university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May 29.”

University of Maryland athletic director, Damon Evans, and university president, Wallace D. Loh, in a statement released following their meeting with the parents of Jordan McNair. In that meeting, Mr. Evans and Dr. Loh explained the findings of the university’s investigation: Medical staff failed to immediately treat Jordan for heatstroke when he fell ill after performing 10-110-meter sprints.

The investigation will continue as the head football coach has been put on leave and the university “has parted ways” with strength coach, Rick Court. Others on the football training staff were also put on leave. The investigation will focus on what has been called a “toxic culture” in the football program, also called “abusive and humiliating.”

The conduct in NCAA programs during the off-season has been a concern for some time.

The acceptance of legal and moral responsibility is important. But, why does it always take such tragic events before culture issues are addressed? Culture controls behavior. Culture drives behavior. Culture rewards behavior. And culture is a tough thing to investigate. Worse, few leaders are willing to believe the findings of a culture audit unless and until there is a tragedy. Every leader should be commissioning culture audits so that they can know “the way things are really being done around here.”

Time and time again, in the midst of a culture audit or during the reporting out of findings, the Barometer finds CEOs and boards unwilling to accept that there are elements of their organization’s culture that need to be fixed. The usual responses:

“Yes, but look at how well we are doing.”
“Yes, but we are known for our community, environmental, diversity commitments.”
“Yes, but you did not interview enough people.”
“Yes, but I have known _________ for so many years, I find this hard to believe.”

Yes, but it always plays out the same way — talk to Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, Penn State, Michigan State, BP, and on and on. Front-page headlines and a CEO who offers, “Who knew?” A culture audit goes right to the front lines of the organization, where the real information is found. At Wells, it was the tellers, feeling pressure to get or just create new accounts and new account services. At Penn State, it was the pressure of maintaining and protecting a winning football program that kept janitors who witnessed Sandusky’s shower behavior with young boys quiet. At BP, the workers on the rigs, the pipelines, and the refineries who knew the real story on safety. The only question is whether CEOs are willing to seek out that information before their cultures produce the inevitable tragedies.

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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