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大众汽车排放丑闻启示录

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2016-01-29 10:00:06 来源:财富中文网 

  过去半年,因柴油车安装作弊软件以通过美国环保局排放检测一事被曝光,德国汽车制造商大众一直处在水深火热之中。

  当时,该公司一位高管曾被迫出席美国国会听证会。在听证会上,大众美国地区总裁兼CEO迈克尔· 霍恩遭到了众议院能源和商务委员会监督与调查子委员会的质疑和批评。霍恩表示道歉,但他声称自己并不知道受检汽车中安装了作弊软件。《纽约时报》随后发表的一篇社论声称,我们很难相信这并不是公司的决策,而只是“几位软件工程师”的个人行为。文章建议,大众汽车应该立刻说出实情。

  但根据我的经验,实际情况可能并非如此。作为一名学者和顾问,我在危机处理领域已从业三十多年,目前开始涉足公司责任领域。一味追究某些高管肯定知道事情的原委,可能会错过危机的根源所在。可能有许多原因导致了此次危机,但我认为,这并不是一次大阴谋,大众只是又一家不惜一切代价追求增长的公司,是它的绩效文化导致了这一问题,而不是来自公司高层的直接命令。

  过去两年来,我耗费大量时间来研究公司责任,并编写了一本关于公司责任的教科书。最令我感到意外的一项研究来自一次全国商业道德调查,该调查以10年为周期,研究员工如何看待公司的商业道德。

  一个重要发现是,导致员工在商业道德方面妥协的最常见原因,确实来自公司的高层,但个中细节并不是你所想象的那样。研究显示,70%的员工认为,实现不切实际的商业目标的压力,是导致他们放弃道德标准的最大原因,有75%的员工表示,公司高层或管理中层是导致公司道德标准下降的主要压力来源。我在过去二十年的研究便证明了这一点。

  例如,早在上世纪90年代,我曾写过一个关于美国超市连锁Food Lion的案例。一段秘密拍摄的视频被ABC新闻频道曝光。这段视频显示,该公司故意出售腐烂的肉,用漂白剂洗过的鱼,出售的通心粉沙拉早已超过最佳使用期限,酸奶上的最迟销售日期也被抹掉。这家公司后来与ABC频道对簿公堂,并最终赢得了官司,因为这位秘密拍摄者曾经在他的工作经历问题上撒过谎。尽管没有哪位公司领导者告诉员工要把坏的鱼挑出来,用漂白剂清洗,然后再涂上烤肉酱,但他们也没有必要发布如此赤裸裸的指令。当公司在努力追求行业第一的时候,员工们自己就会找寻捷径。

  2004年遭遇柴油机微粒过滤器事件的三井有限公司也是如此。我在新书中也提到了这家公司的案例。三井的情况与大众汽车类似,当时三井一家子公司的工程师,在柴油微粒过滤器的排放数据上做了手脚。为了遵守严格的新公共交通(如公交车等)规定,日本许多政府机关采购了这款过滤器。三井公司CEO枪田松莹对此一无所知。我写的案例记录了这位果断的CEO,如何在几年内完成了公司文化的惊人转变。

  那么,对于指责大众公司的监管者以及正努力解决问题的大众高管来说,他们究竟应该做些什么呢?首先,对于大众汽车而言,这确实是一次糟糕的危机,但我们必须承认,相比通用汽车的点火装置故障危机(通用汽车承认死亡人数超过100人)或丰田汽车的突然加速问题(近90人死亡),大众汽车的此次危机并没有那么严重。而在上面两个案例中,尽管要处理法律和监管问题,这两家公司生产的汽车仍然能够成功售出。大众汽车同样会度过危机,继续销售汽车。

  其次,把时间花在追究某些人是否知情,在什么时间知晓相关问题,并没有多少意义。相反,调查人员应该研究导致此次危机的公司文化,而大众汽车需要找到一位领导人,带领这家伟大的公司度过此次危机,正如三井公司一样。但不要误会:这需要时间,而无论是监管机构、媒体还是股东,都不会愿意提供这样的时间。

  第三,大众汽车既需要关注排放检测造假的短期问题,也要关注长期的文化问题——这种文化专注于成功与绩效,却忘记提醒它的员工,不要去做任何他们不希望被媒体曝光的事情。他们应该怎么做?

  他们要知道,一家拥有强大文化的公司更加难以进行彻底变革,并且他们要专注于长期的文化变革,以避免未来发生类似丑闻。

  保证公司的策略与其价值观和愿景一致。

  明确表明对不道德行为的零容忍,并反复强调,没有任何事情值得公司付出失去信誉的代价。

  按照与对待运营和财务风险相同的方式,测量和监测信誉风险。

  保证管理高层不会太过专注于管理危机,以至于忘记着眼未来经营公司。

  要做到这些并不容易,而且不可能在几个月内完成,大众汽车肯定要花数年时间,才能让员工以在这里工作为豪,让消费者愿意购买它的汽车,让社区欢迎它的回归。

  从许多方面而言,相比大众等公司在危机爆发之后才去努力解决问题,对于正在阅读这篇文章的高管们来说,避免此类危机的爆发要容易得多。我能给所有公司最好的建议,或许便如希腊哲学家苏格拉底所说:“获得名誉的方式是努力,成为你理想的样子。”如果大众汽车的每一个人都能认真思考这句话,而不是只考虑如何实现管理层设定的激进增长目标,大众汽车恐怕也不至于陷入如今的窘境。(财富中文网)

  本文作者保罗· A· 阿尔真蒂是达特茅斯塔克商学院公司沟通教授。他著有《公司责任》一书。2014年,道德村协会将其评为商业道德领域最具影响力人物之一。

  译者:刘进龙/汪皓

  审校:任文科

  Over the last half year, the German automaker, Volkswagen, had been in the hot seat for installing software that covered up diesel emissions during testing by the EPA.

  As is often the case, the situation came to a head with the obligatory congressional hearing when the company’s Group America President and CEO, Michael Horn, faced questions and criticism from the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. In that testimony, Horn was apologetic, but said he was not aware that the software had been installed. The New York Times was quick to write in an editorial that it is hard to believe this was not a corporate decision rather than the work of “a couple of software engineers.” They went on to suggest that VW needs to come clean now and quickly.

  My experience, however, working for over three decades as an academic and consultant on crises and more recently in the area of corporate responsibility, suggests otherwise. And, the idea that someone in senior management had to know misses the point of this crisis. It may be many things, but my sense is that rather than a large conspiracy, it is yet another example of a company hell bent on growth whose performance culture created this problem rather than direct orders from the top of the company.

  Over the last two years, I spent a significant amount of time researching and writing a textbook on corporate responsibility. One of the most surprising studies that I came across in my work was a National Business Ethics Survey that looked at how employees viewed ethics in their organizations over a 10-year period.

  What the study found was that the most common cause for an employee to compromise ethics did indeed come from the top, but not how you would think. In that study, 70% of employees identified pressure to meet unrealistic business objectives as most likely to cause them to compromise their ethical standards, and 75% identified either their senior or middle management as the primary source of pressure they feel to compromise the standards of their organizations. And my research over the last two decades backs this up.

  For example, back in the 1990s, I wrote a case about Food Lion, the US supermarket chain that was caught in a hidden-camera expose by ABC News charging that the company knowingly sold rotten meat, fish cleaned with bleach, macaroni salad put out way past its prime, and yogurt whose sell-by date had been erased. The company fought ABC in court and won because the person using the hidden camera had lied about previous employment. And while no one in the company had ever told employees to keep putting bad fish out and cleaning it with bleach before adding barbecue sauce, they didn’t have to. In their quest to be number one, employees knew how to cut corners on their own.

  The same was also true at Mitsui & Co. in its DPF incident in 2004, which I also wrote a case about for my new book. This case was similar to the situation at VW in that engineers at a subsidiary had been falsifying emissions data on diesel particulate filters (DPF). The filters were sold to many government agencies in Japan to meet aggressive new regulations on public transport such as buses. At Mitsui, the CEO, Shoei Utsuda, knew nothing about the situation. The case I wrote chronicled the amazing turn-around in culture that this heroic CEO was able to put into place over a period of several years.

  So what should regulators trying to place blame and VW executives trying to fix the problem do? First, while this is a terrible crisis for VW, we all need to recognize that it pales in comparison to the crisis GM faced with its faulty ignition switches (the company now admits over 100 people died) or Toyota’s instant acceleration problem (close to 90 people died). In both cases, however, the companies went on selling cars successfully despite dealing with legal and regulatory issues. VW will also survive and continue to sell cars.

  Second, it is useless to spend time trying to figure out who knew what and when. Instead, investigators should be studying the culture that lead to this crisis and the company, like Mitsui, needs to find a leader who can move this great organization beyond this incident. But make no mistake; it will take time, which is something that neither regulators, the media, or shareholders are going to be happy about.

  Third, VW needs to focus on both the short-term issue of compromised emissions tests as well as the long-term issue of a culture so focused on success and performance that it forgot to remind employees not to do anything they wouldn’t want to read about online the next day. So how can they do that?

  Realize that radical changes are more difficult in companies with a strong culture and focus on the long-term cultural changes necessary to avoid scandals like this one in the future.

  Make sure that the strategy of the company aligns with its values and vision.

  Explicitly state intolerance for wrongdoing and repeatedly suggest that nothing is worth losing your reputation over.

  Measure and monitor reputational risk in the same way that the company looks at operational and financial risk.

  Make sure that senior management does not get so caught up managing the crisis that they forget to run the company for the future.

  None of this is going to be easy, and it will most definitely take years rather than months for VW to transform itself to the kind of company employees will be proud to work for, customers will be happy to buy from, and communities will be happy to welcome back.

  In many ways, it is much easier for executives reading this to stop things like this from happening in the first place rather than trying to fix problems at companies like VW after they happen. Perhaps the best advice I could give all of those many companies was best said by the Greek philosopher Socrates: “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” If everyone had thought about that at VW rather than how to meet the aggressive growth goals set forth by management, no one would be questioning them today.

  Paul A. Argenti is Professor of Corporate Communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. He is author of Corporate Responsibility. The Ethisphere Institute listed him in 2014 as one of the most influential people in business ethics.

(责任编辑:徐立梅 HT001)

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