Need vs Greed: An Organisational Issue in Our Times

S. Skandakumar **.. an essay written four years ago, one that can provide insights into the way the ICC is run as much as the cultural practices encouraged by governments and business enterprises: Editor

In October 1990, as the Hony Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, I attended a meeting of the CEO’s of the seven Test playing nations of that time, at Lords in London. The purpose was to initiate discussions on the concepts of a Match Referee, Third Umpire and more importantly a Code of Conduct for Players.

Yes, times were indeed changing; The Gentleman’s game which for more than a century had come to be regarded as a credible pathway to life was being transformed by the very nature of its competition, requiring checks and balances to be introduced to ensure that its time tested values were protected. The all familiar phrase, “that’s simply not cricket,” seemed to be receding in its significance as players set out to “win at all costs” . Looking back on the ensuing two decades in which the commercial aspect of the game has reached unprecedented proportion, those reforms could not have been better timed. Appropriately enough, the sessions, lasting over three days, were chaired by one of the finest gentleman of the game, the late Sir Colin Cowdrey, who was then the Chairman of the controlling body for world cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC).

BUSINESS The business world too has been through a similar transition, as the potential and incentives for rich rewards have given rise to a new breed of executives at various levels, ruthlessly bent on securing the pot of gold, with little or no regard for the possible consequences. The staggering collapse of Enron, the shameful role of Arthur Anderson in it, the astonishing policies at Wall Street in particular, that encourage risk taking without responsibilities, the questionable payments of phenomenal rewards, even before the realization of related returns, the despicable behaviour of Madoff (and in our country, Golden Key) to name a few, have left many trusting shareholders, investors and the innocent civilized public the world over, shocked, distressed and even destitute.

The dividing line between Need and Greed is a very thin one. To cross it therefore is not a difficult task; once into that zone, whether for material gain or power, the word ENOUGH ceases to have any meaning. When one is rewarded for greed, greed becomes a corruptible factor. Such individuals live unbalanced and yet affluent and (unfortunately) influential lives. If we encourage our succeeding generations to emulate such lives, we are only courting disaster. No single individual or a group of people can thrive in the long term by merely exploiting others. This simple philosophy applies to countries as well. Swimming in riches while the rest drown in poverty, pollution and violence, has only given rise to extremism, as seen in many places.

CONFLICTS Another issue facing corporate life is the conflict that exists between personal loyalties and that to the Institution. Some executives in management expect personal loyalty as a right, while there are others who may demand it. The worst offenders are the ones who construe dissenting points of view as disloyalty; a possible reflection of their personal insecurity and inflated ego. Such executives will therefore often be told by those reporting to them, only what they like to hear and not what they should know. In some instances, subordinates are even reduced to servility (a deplorable humiliation of human dignity). Relationships such as these invariably have disastrous consequences.

‘If everyone thinks like the Boss does, no one thinks very much’ has deep rooted meaning. It discourages yes men, encourages independent thinking and initiatives, all of which contribute effectively in crucial decision making. If employees are educated to be loyal to the Institution first, that loyalty will ensure their commitment to their superiors. However, if they put personal loyalties ahead of loyalty to the Institution, they end up creating conflicts, which are best avoided. More often than not such undesirable situations are created by the bosses themselves.

FAIRPLAY In the more successful Enterprises, the focus is on Professionalism. To achieve this, superiors recognize the need to guide their subordinates for competence, and to groom them for higher responsibility, and eventual succession. Such a process ensures fairplay in the workplace, and inspires confidence, mutual trust and respect. The Institution then becomes the ultimate winner.

The initiatives of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, and since then, the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors, to encourage credible, ethical and accountable conduct in business, and their sustained focus as demonstrated in the many seminars and modules for executives, young and old, therefore deserve rich commendation. The emphasis in all of these modules has been that Directors in particular, whether in Public or Private companies, must act in good faith at all times.

CONSCIENCE  In the final analysis, given the impermanence of life, there can be no greater reward at its end, than the peace of mind reposed in a clear conscience. So, as much as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a Board Room buzz word, let us make Common Sense and Conscience (CSC), our personal one, and help transform the world into a better place for all.

**  Former Group Chairman, George Steuart & Co Ltd.



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