I saw the recall sign in Target yesterday for the Mattel toys. No doubt about it, this one is painful for that company. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do. They did. Bully for Mattel!
But is it really all "bully" for them? Probably not. We’d like to pretend that doing the right thing always works out for the best in the end, financially. But the truth of the matter is that sometimes it doesn’t financially work out for the best. Sometimes it would be better for a company not to take the hit. That’s where management values come into play.
Human life — and quality of life — has intrinsic value that cannot be measured by monetary factors alone. Human managers must make those calls, and we hope they make the right ethical decisions regardless of consequences. The freedom to make those decisions, to take those risks, to push back against shareholders only looking at the bottom line, must remain with managers steeped in sound values. Every management decision ought to consider not only risk and benefit in monetary terms, but also in larger terms not so easily measured. Things like sustainability, quality of life, degree of risk versus potential benefit, all tempered by degree of probability.
And if they don’t? Then thank goodness for plaintiff’s lawyers, for juries, for government regulations, and for the other very real checks and balances in our system. Too bad those checks and balances on rational decision process — balancing risk and benefit of actions and consequences — seem to have been lost in regard to those making policy decisions when it came to hurricane preparations in the Mississippi delta, NASA managers who ignored warnings from engineers, or government officials who would rather trumpet lower taxes than allocate money for bridge repair. At least in this country we have free speech, free press, and thus some measure of public accountability that isn’t present in some other places in the earth.