Could Management Embrace a Code?

In times such as these it is no coincidence that Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria – both professors at Harvard Business School – picked up a topic targeting at mangers’ performance, behavior, and business ethics. In their latest HBR article “It’s Time to Make Management a True Profession” they stated that

” … Most successful codes – such as the ancient Hippocratic Oath, for doctors – establish the ideals and social purposes that members of the profession embrace. As the sociologist Robert K. Merton has argued, such codes have enormous influence because they provide guidelines for how an occupant of a role ought to behave. They can trigger strong positive emotions such as pride (when one acts in a manner that exemplifies the code) and equally strong negative emotions such as guilt or shame (when one acts in ways that transgress the code). The influence of such emotions in shaping behavior can be as significant as the expected material or reputational consequences of a professional’s behavior.
Codes and their supporting institutions also help define an implicit social contract among the members of the profession. By establishing a standard for inclusion, they create and sustain a feeling of community and mutual obligation that members have toward each other and toward the profession. These bonds shape the social capital of a profession – capital that builds trust and greatly reduces transaction costs among the members of the profession and between the profession and society.”

In fact there’s no mystery to the process of establishing a professional code for management, the authors argue:
• articulate the code (as so many other professions have done)
• familiarize students with it during their formal management education
• require students to embrace the code as part of their professional license or certificate to practice
• and create peer review bodies to monitor adherence, establish protocols for due process review infractions, and administer sanctions as necessary.

A Hippocratic Oath for ManagersAccording to Khurana and Nohria a code for managers could look like this →

Read the full article in Harvard Business Review, October 2008:
“It’s time to Make Management a Real Profession” by Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria.

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