The good, the bad, and the ugly

11 October 2004

I think I owe my MGMT 101 class (in general) and some MGMT 101 students (in particular) an apology. Things didn’t go as well as I would have liked. On almost every measurement I use to judge my performance in class, I scored a ‘Not very good’. So, I’m left sitting here reflecting on “What went wrong?” How did I manage to turn today’s class into (what might generously be called) a farce?

It would be easy (but wrong) to blame the students. Whilst, it takes ‘two to tango’, I should have managed events better. The responsibility for the class is mine.

But, before continuing, I hope the class will accept my apology for my lack of professionalism this evening. And, to the students to whom I was unfair, I hope you will accept this apology too.

So, what went wrong, and what have I learnt from this?

Basically, the class got lost, and both I and members of the class got over excited by out positions.

I think that I took the subject (business ethics) too personally (as opposed to too seriously). I’ve seen so many managers make unethical decisions with no real consideration of the consequences of their actions. Furthermore, I’ve seen students do likewise1. And, often, I’ve been left to pick up the pieces. Hence, when I saw the direction the class (or some of it) were taking I got a little excited and very defensive. Certainly towards the end of the discussion I was adopting the classic “win do not lose” attitude that is talked about by Argyris & Schön]. I was well and truly stuck in Model I, and rarely ventured out into Model II.

So what could I have done differently? It would be trite to suggest that I be more Model I. Rather, I think David Barry’s admonishment to slowing things down is good–if things had been slowed down I would have had more time to think about what was happening and try and change the direction.

My other reflection is this–ethics is a difficult subject. Not hard, but difficult in that it can cause us to challenge some of our fundamental beliefs, and that can always make for an ‘exciting’ class.

realities of defensive reason in organisations.


  1. You can tell from that statement I’m not an ethical relativist. [return]