Pinto Fires and Personal Ethics: A Script Analysis of Missed Opportunities ABSTRACT. This article details the personal involvement of the author in the early stages of the infamous Pinto fire case. The paper first presents an insider account of the context and decision environment within which he failed to initiate an early recall of defective vehicles. A cognitive script analysis of the personal experience is then offered as an explanation of factors that led to a decision that now is commonly seen as a definitive study in unethical corporate behavior. IThe main analytical thesis is that script schemas that were guiding cognition and action at the time pre.cluded consideration of issues in ethical terms because the scripts did not include ethical dimensions. In the summer of 1972 I made one of those important tran.sitions in life, the significance of vifhich becomes obvious only in retrospect. I left academe with a BS in Engineering Science and an MBA to enter the world of big business. I joined Ford Motor Company at World Headquarters in Dearborn Michigan, fulfilling a long-standing dream to work in the heart of the auto industry. I felt confident that I was in the right place at the right time to make a Dennis A. Gioia is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Department of Management and Organization, The Smeal College ofBusiness Administration, Pennsylvania State University. Professor Cioia’s primary research and writing focus of the nature and uses of complex cognitive processes by organization members and the ways that these processes affect sensemaking, communication, influence and organizational change. His most recent research interests have to do with the less rational, more intuitive, emotional, and political aspects of organizational life — thosefascinating arenas where people in organizations tend to subvert management scholars’ heartfelt attempts to have them behave more rationally. Prior to this ivory tower career, he worked in the real world as an engineering aide for Boeing Aerospace at Kennedy Space Center and as vehicle recall coordinatorfor Ford Motor Company in Dearbom, Michigan. Journal ofBusiness Ethia 11: 379-389, 1992. © 1992 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. Dennis A. Cioia difference. My initial job title was “Problem Analyst” — a catchall label that superficially described what I would be thinking about and doing in the coming years. On some deeper level, however, the ride paradoxically came to connote the many crirical things that I would not be thinking about and acring upon. By that summer of 1972 I was very full of myself. I had met my hfe’s goals to that point with some notable success. I had virtually everything I wanted, including a strongly-held value system that had led me to question many of the perspectives and pracrices I observed in the world around me. Not the least of these was a profound distaste for the Vietnam war, a distaste that had found me parriciparing in various demonstrarions against its conduct and speaking as a part of a collecrive voice on the moral and ethical failure of a democraric government that would attempt to jusdfy it. I also found myself in MBA classes railing against the conducr of businesses of the era, whose acrions struck me as ranging from inconsiderate to indifferent to simply unethical. To me the typical stance of business seemed to be one of disdain for, rather than responsibility toward, the society of which they were prominent members. I wanted something to change. Accordingly, I culrivated my social awareness; I held my principles high; I espoused my intenrion to help a troubled world; and I wore my hair long. By any measure I was a prototypical “Child of the ’60s.” Therefore, it struck quire a few of my friends in the MBA program as rather strange that I was in the program at all. (“If you are so disappointed in business, why study business?”). Subsequently, they were practically dumbstruck when I accepted the job offer from Ford, apparendy one of the great purveyors of the very acrions I reviled. I countered that it was an ideal strategy, arguing that I would have a 380 Dennis A. Gioia greater chance of influencing social change in business if I worked behind the scenes on the inside, rather than as a strident voice on the outside. It was clear to me that somebody needed to prod these staid companies into socially responsible acrion. I certainly aimed to do my part. Besides, I liked cars. Into the fray: setting the personal stage Predictably enough, I found myself on the fast track at Ford, parriciparing in a “tournament” type of socializarion (Van Maanen, 1978), engaged in a competirion for recognirion with other MBA’s who had recently joined the company. And I quickly became caught up in the game. The company itself was dynamic; the environment of business, especially the auto industry, was intriguing; the job was challenging and the pay was great. The psychic rewards of working and succeeding in a major corporarion proved unexpectedly seducrive. I really became involved in the job. Market forces (internarional comperirion) and government regularion (vehicle safety and emissions) were affecring the auto industry in disruprive ways that only later would be common to the wider business and social arena. They also produced an industry and a company that felt buffeted, beleaguered, and threatened by the changes. The threats were mostly external, of course, and led to a strong feeling of we-vs-them, where we (Ford members) needed to defend ourselves against them (all the outside parries and voices demanding that we change our ways). Even at this rime, an intriguing quesrion for me was whether I was a “we” or a “them.” It was becoming apparent to me that my perspecrive was changing. I had long since cut my hair. By the summer of 1973 I was pitched into the thick of the battle. I became Ford’s Field Recall Coordinator — not a posirion that was parricularly high in the hierarchy, but one that wielded influence for beyond its level. I was in charge of the operarional coordinarion of all of the recall campaigns currently underway and also in charge of tracking incoming informarion to idenrify developing problems. Therefore, I was in a posirion to make inirial recommendarions about possible future recalls. The most crirical type of recalls were labeled “safety campaigns” — those that dealt vwth the possibility of customer injury or death. These ranged from straight-forward occurrences such as brake failure and wheels falling off vehicles, to more exoric and faintly humorous failure modes such as detaching axles that announced their presence by spinning forward and slamming into the starded driver’s door and speed control units that locked on, and refused to disengage, as the care accelerated wildly while the spooked driver furilely tried to shut it off. Safety recall campaigns, however, also encompassed the more sobering possibility of on-board gasoline fires and explosions…. The Pinto case: setting the corporate stage In 1970 Ford introduced the Pinto, a small car that was intended to compete with the then current challenge from European cars and the ominous presence on the horizon of Japanese manufacturers. The Pinto was brought from inceprion to producrion in the record rime of approximately 25 months (compared to the industry average of 43 months), a rime frame that suggested the necessity for doing things expediently. In addirion to the time pressure, the engineering and development teams were required to adhere to the producrion “limits of 2 000” for the diminurive car: it was not to exceed either $2 000 in cost or 2000 pounds in weight. Any decisions that threatened these targets or the riming of the car’s introducrion were discouraged. Under normal condirions design, styling, product plarming, engineering, etc., were completed prior to producrion tooling. Because of the foreshortened rime frame, however, some of these usually sequenrial processes were executed in parallel. As a consequence, tooling was already well under way (thus “freezing” the basic design) when rourine crash tesring revealed that the Pinto’s fuel tank often ruptured when struck from the rear at a relarively low speed (31 mph in crash tests). Reports (revealed much later) showed that the fuel tank failures were the result of some rather marginal design features. The tank was posirioned between the rear bumper and the rear axle ( a standard industry pracrice for the rime). During impact, however, several studs protruding from the rear of the axle housing would puncture holes in the tank; the fuel filler neck also was likely to rip away. Spilled gasoline then could be Pinto Fires and Personal Ethics ignited by sparks. Ford had in fact crash-tested 11 vehicles; 8 of these cars suffered potenrially catastrophic gas tank ruptures. The only 3 cars that survived intact had each been modified in some way to protect the tank. These crash tests, however, were conducted under the guidelines of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 301 which had been proposed in 1968 and strenuously opposed by the auto industry. FMVSS 301 was not actually adopted until 1976; thus, at the rime of tlie tests. Ford was not in violarion of the law. There were several possibiliries for fixing the problem, including the oprion of redesigning the tank and its locarion, which would have produced tank integrity in a high-speed crash. That solurion, however, was not only rime consuming and expensive, but also usurped trunk space, which was seen as a crirical comperirive sales factor. One of the producrion modificarions to the tank, however, would have cost only $11 to install, but given the right margins and restricrions of the “limits of 2 000,” there was reluctance to make even this relarively minor change. There were other reasons for not approving the change, as well, including a widespread industry belief that all small cars were inherently unsafe solely because of their size and weight. Another more prominent reason was a corporate belief that “safety doesn’t sell.” This observarion was attributed to Lee Iacocca and stemmed from Ford’s earlier attempt to make safety a sales theme, an attempt that failed rather dismally in the marketplace. Perhaps the most controversial reason for rejecting the producrion change to the gas tank, however, was Ford’s use of cost-benefit analysis to jusrify the decision. The Narional Highway Traffic Safety Associarion (NHTSA, a federal agency) had approved the use of cost-benefit analysis as an appropriate means for establishing automorive safety design standards. The controversial aspect in making such calcularions v^ras that they required the assignment of some specific value for a human life. In 1970, that value was deemed to be approximately $200 000 as a “cost to society” for each fatality. Ford used NHTSA’s figures in esrimaring the costs and benefits of altering the tank producrion design. An internal memo, later revealed in court, indicates the following tabularions concerning potenrial fires (Dowie, 1977): 381 Costs: $137000000 (Estimated as the costs of a production fix to all similarly designed cars and trucks with the gas tank aft of the axle (12 500 000 vehicles X $11/vehicle)) Benefits: $49530000 (Estimated as the savings from preventing (180 projected deaths x $200 000/ death) + (180 projected burn injuries X $67 000/injury) + (2 100 burned cars X $700/car)) T h e cost-benefit decision was then construed as straightforward: No producrion fix would be undertaken. The philosophical and ethical implicarions of assigning a financial value for human life or disfigurement do not seem to have been a major considerarion in reaching this decision. Pintos and personal experience When I took over the Recall Coordinator’s job in 1973 I inherited the oversight of about 100 acrive recall campaigns, more than half of which were safety-related. These ranged from minimal in size (replacing front wheels that were likely to break on 12 heavy trucks) to maximal (repairing the power steering pump on millions of cars). In addition, there were quite a number of safety problems that were under considerarion as candidates for addirion to the recall list. (Actually, “problem” was a word whose public use was forbidden by the legal office at the rime, even in service bullerins, because it suggested corporate admission of culpability. “Condirion” was the sancrioned catchword.) In addirion to these potenrial recall candidates, there were many files containing field reports of alleged component failure (another forbidden word) that had led to accidents, and in some cases, passenger injury. Beyond these exisring files, I began to construct my own files of incoming safety problems. One of these new files concerned reports of Pintos “lighring up” (in the words of a field representarive) in rear-end accidents. There were actually very few reports, perhaps because component failure was not inirially assumed. These cars simply were consumed by fire after apparently very low speed accidents. Was there a problem? Not as far as I was concerned. My cue for labelir^ a case as a problem either required high frequencies of occurrence or directlytraceable causes. I had litde rime for specularive 382 Dennis A. Gioia contemplarion on potenrial problems that did not fit a pattern that suggested known courses of acrion leading to possible recall. I do, however, remember being disquieted by a field report accompanied by graphic, detailed photos of the remains of a burnedout Pinto in which several people had died. Although that report became part of my file, I did not flag it as any special case. It is difficult to convey the overwhelming complexity and pace of the job of keeping track of so many acrive or potenrial recall campaigns. It remains the busiest, most informarion-filled job I have ever held or would want to hold. Each case required a myriad of informarion-gathering and execurion stages. I disrinctly remember that the informarionprocessing demands led me to confuse the facts of one problem case with another on several occasions because the tell-tale signs of recall candidate cases were so similar. I thought of myself as a fireman — a fireman who perfectly fit the descriprion by one of my colleagues: “In this office everything is a crisis. You only have rime to put out the big fires and spit on the little ones.” By those standards the Pinto problem was disrinctly a little one. It is also important to convey the muring of emorion involved in the Recall Coordinator’s job. I remember contemplaring the fact that my job literally involved life-and-death matters. I was somerimes responsible for finding and fixing cars NOW, because somebody’s life might depend on it. I took it very seriously. Early in thejob, I somerimes woke up at night wondering whether I had covered all the bases. Had I left some unknown person at risk because I had not thought of something? That soon faded, however, and of necessity the considerarion of people’s lives became a fairly removed, dispassionate process. To do the job “well” there was little room for emorion. Allowing it to surface was potenrially paralyzing and prevented rarional decisions about which cases to recommend for recall. On moral grounds I knew I could recommend most of the vehicles on my safety tracking list for recall (and risk earning the label of a “bleeding heart”). On pracrical grounds, I recognized that people implicitly accept risks in cars. We could not recall all cars with potential problems and stay in business. I learned to be responsive to those cases that suggested an imminent, dangerous problem. I should also note, that the country was in the midst of its first, and worst, oil crisis at this rime. The effects of the crisis had cast a pall over Ford and the rest of the automobile industry. Ford’s product line, with the perhaps notable exceprion of the Pinto and Maverick small cars, was not well-suited to dealing with the crisis. Layoffs were imminent for many people. Recalling the Pinto in this context would have damaged one of the few trump cards the company had (although, quite frankly, I do not remember overtly thinking about that issue). Pinto reports conrinued to trickle in, but at such a slow rate that they really did not capture parricular attenrion relarive to other, more pressing safety problems. However, I later saw a crumpled, burned car at a Ford depot where alleged problem components and vehicles were delivered for inspecrion and analysis (a place known as the “Chamber of Horrors” by some of the people who worked there). The revulsion on seeing this incinerated hulk was immediate and profound. Soon afterwards, and despite the fact that the file was very sparse, I recommended the Pinto case for preliminary departmentlevel review concerning possible recall. After the usual round of discussion about criteria and jusrificarion for recall, everyone voted against recommending recall — including me. It did not fit the pattern of recallable standards; the evidence was not overwhelming that the car was defecrive in some way, so the case was actually fairly straightforward. It was a good business decision, even if people might be dying. (We did not then know about the preproducrion crash test data that suggested a high rate of tank failures in “normal” accidents (cf, Perrow, 1984) or an abnormal failure mode.) Later, the existence of the crash test data did become known within Ford, which suggested that the Pinto might actually have a recallable problem. This information led to a reconsiderarion of the case within our office. The data, however, prompted a comparison of the Pinto’s survivability in a rear end accident with that of other comperitors’ small cars. These comparisons revealed that although many cars in this subcompact class suffered appalling deformarion in relarively low speed collisions, the Pinto was merely the worst of a bad lot. Furthermore, the gap between the Pinto and the comperirion was not dramaric in terms of the speed at which fuel tank rupture was likely to occur. On that basis it would be difficult to jusrify the recall of cars that were Pinto Fires and Personal Ethia comparable with others on the market. In the face of even more compelling evidence that people were probably going to die in this car, I again included myself in a group of decision makers who voted not to recommend recall to the higher levels of the organizarion. Coda to the corporate case Subsequent to my departure from Ford in 1975, reports of Pinto fires escalated, attracring increasing media attenrion, almost all of it crirical of Ford. Anderson and Whitten (1976) revealed the internal memos concerning the gas tank problem and quesrioned how the few dollars saved per car could be jusrified when human lives were at stake. Shordy thereafter, a scathing arricle by Dowie (1977) attacked not only the Pinto’s design, but also accused Ford of gross negligence, stonewalling, and unethical corporate conduct by alleging that Ford knowingly sold “firetraps” after willfully calcularing the cost of lives against profits (see also Gatewood and Carroll, 1983). Dowie’s provocarive quote specularing on “how long the Ford Motor Company would conrinue to market lethal cars were Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca serving 20 year terms in Leavenworth for consumer homicide” (1977, p. 32) was parricularly effecrive in focusing attenrion on the case. Public senriment edged toward labehng Ford as socially deviant because management was seen as knowing that the car was defecrive, choosing profit over lives, resisring demands to fix the car, and apparently showing no public remorse (Swigert and Farrell, 1980-81). Shordy after Dowie’s (1977) expose, NHTSA iniriated its own invesrigarion. Then, early in 1978 a jury awarded a Pinto burn vicrim $125 million in punirive damages (later reduced to $6.6 million , a judgment upheld on an appeal that prompted the judge to assert that “Ford’s insriturional mentality was shown to be one of callous indifference to public safety” (quoted in Cullen etal, 1987, p. 164)). A siege atmosphere emerged at Ford. Insiders characterized the mounring media campaign as “hysterical” and “a crusade against us” (personal communicarions). The crisis deepened. In the summer of 1978 NHTSA issued a formal determinarion that the Pinto was defecrive. Ford then launched a reluctant recall of all 383 1971—1976 cars (those built for the 1977 model year were equipped with a producrion fix prompted by the adoprion of the FMVSS 301 gas tank standard). Ford hoped that the issue would then recede, but worse was yet to come. The culminarion of the case and the demise of the Pinto itself began in Indiana on August 10, 1978, when three teenage girls died in a fire triggered after their 1973 Pinto was hit from behind by a van. A grand jury took the unheard of step of indicring Ford on charges of reckless homicide (Cullen et al, 1987). Because of the precedent-setring possibiliries for all manufacturing industries. Ford assembled a formidable legal team headed by Watergate prosecutor James Neal to defend itself at the trial. The trial was a media event; it was the first rime that a corporarion was tried for alleged criminal behavior. After a protracted, acrimonious courtroom battle that included vivid clashes among the opposing attorneys, surprise witnesses, etc., the jury ulrimately found in favor of Ford. Ford had dodged a bullet in the form of a consequenrial legal precedent, but because of the negarive publicity of the case and the charges of corporate crime and ethical deviance, the conduct of manufacturing businesses was altered, probably forever. As a relarively minor footnote to the case. Ford ceased producrion of the Pinto. Coda to the personal case In the intervening years since my early involvement with the Pinto fire case, I have given repeated considerarion to my role in it. Although most of the ethically quesrionable acrions that have been cited in the press are associated with Ford’s intenrional stonewalling after it was clear that the Pinto was defecrive (see Cullen et al, 1986; Dowie, 1977; Gatewood and Carroll, 1983) — and thus postdate my involvement with the case and the company — I still nonetheless wonder about my own culpability. Why didn’t I see the gravity of the problem and its ethical overtones? What happened to the value system I carried with me into Ford? Should I have acted differendy, given what I knew then? The experience with myself has somerimes not been pleasant. Somehow, it seems I should have done something different that might have made a difference. 384 Dennis A. Gioia As a consequence of this line of thinking and feeling, some years ago I decided to construct a “living case” out of my experience vwth the Pinto fire problem for use in my MBA classes. The written case descriprion contains many of the facts detailed above; the analyrical task of the class is to ask appropriate quesrions of me as a figure in the case to reveal the central issues involved. It is somewhat of a trying experience to get through these classes. After getring to know me for most of the semester, and then finding out that I did not vote to recommend recall, students are often incredulous, even angry at me for apparently not having lived what I have been teaching. To be fair and even-handed here, many students understand my acrions in the context of the rimes and the atritudes prevalent then. Others, however, are very disappointed that I appear to have failed during a rime of trial. Consequendy, I am accused of being a charlatan and otherwise vilified by those who maintain that ethical and moral principles should have prevailed in this case no matter what the mirigating circumstances. Those are the ones that hurt. Those are also the ones, however, that keep the case and its lessons alive in my mind and cause me to have an on-going dialogue with myself about it. It is fascinaring to me that for several years after I first conducted the living case with myself as the focus, I remained convinced that I had made the “right” decision in not recommending recall of the cars. In Hght of the rimes and the evidence available, I thought I had pursued a reasonable course of acrion. More recently, however, I have come to think that I really should have done everything I could to get those cars off the road. In retrospect I know that in the context of the rimes my acrions were legal (they were all well within the framework of the law); they probably also were ethical according to most prevailing definirions (they were in accord with accepted professional standards and codes of conduct); the major concern for me is whether they were moral (in the sense of adhering to some higher standards of inner conscience and convicrion about the “right” acrions to take). This simple typology implies that I had passed at least two hurdles on a personal conrinuum that ranged from more rigorous, but arguably less significant criteria, to less rigorous, but more personally. organizarionally, and perhaps societally significant standards: Legal Ethical Moral It is that last criterion that remains troublesome. Perhaps these reflecrions are all just personal revisionist history. After all, I am srill stuck in my cognirive structures, as everyone is. I do not think these concerns are all retrospecrive reconstrucrion, however. Another telling piece of informarion is this: The enrire rime I was dealing with the Pinto fire problem, I owned a Pinto (!). I even sold it to my sister. What does that say? What happened here? I, of course, have some thoughts about my experience with this damningly visible case. At the risk of breaking some of the accepted rules of scholarly analysis, rather than engaging in the usual comprehensive, dense, arms-length cririque, I would instead like to offer a rather selecrive and subjecrive focus on certain characterisrics of human informarion processing relevant to this kind of situarion, of which I was my own unwitring vicrim. I make no claim that my analysis necessarily “explains more variance” than other possible explanarions. I do think that this selecrive view is enlightening in that it offers an alternarive explanarion for some ethically quesrionable acrions in business. The subjecrive stance adopted in the analysis is intenrional also. This case obviously stems from a series of personal experiences, accounts, and introspecrions. The analyrical style is intended to be consistent with the self-based case example; therefore, it appears to be less “formal” than the typical objecrivist mode of explanarion. I suspect that my chosen focus will be fairly non-obvious to the reader familiar with the ethical literature (as it typically is to the ethical actor). Although this analysis might be judged as somewhat self-serving, I nonetheless believe that it provides an informarive explanarion for some of the ethical foibles we see enacted around us. Pinto Fires and Personal Ethics To me, there are two major issues to address. First, how could my value system apparently have flip-flopped in the relarively short space of 1—2 years? Secondly, how could I have failed to take acrion on a retrospecrively obvious safety problem when I was in the perfect posirion to do so? To begin, I would like to consider several possible explanarions for my thoughts and acrions (or lack thereof) during the early stages of the Pinto fire case. One explanarion is that I was simply revealed as a phony when the chips were down; that my previous values were not strongly inculcated; that I was all bluster, not parricularly ethical, and as a result acted expediendy when confronted with a reality test of those values. In other words, I turned traitor to my own expressed values. Another explanarion is that I was simply inrimidated; in the face of strong pressure to heel to company preferences, I folded — put ethical concerns aside, or at least traded them for a monumental guilt trip and did what anybody would do to keep a good job. A third explanarion is that I was following a strictly utilitarian set of decision criteria (Valasquez et al, 1983) and, predictably enough, opted for a personal form of Ford’s own cost-benefit analysis, with similar disappoinring results. Another explanarion might suggest that the interacrion of my stage of moral development (Kohlberg, 1969) and the culture and decision environment at Ford led me to think about and act upon an etldcal dilemma in a fashion that reflected a lower level of actual moral development than I espoused for myself (Trevino, 1986 and this issue). Yet another explanarion is that I was co-opted; rather than working from the inside to change a lumbering system as I had intended, the tables were turned and the system beat me at my own game. More charitably, perhaps, it is possible that I simply was a good person making bad ethical choices because of the corporate milieu (Gellerman, 1986). I doubt that this list is exhausrive. I am quite sure that cynics could match my own MBA students’ labels, which in the worst case include phrases like “moral failure” and “doubly reprehensible because you were in a posirion to make a difference.” I believe, however, on the basis of a number of years of work on social cognirion in organizarions that a viable explanarion is one that is not quite so melodramaric. It is an explanarion that rests on a recogni- 385 rion that even the best-intenrioned organizarion members organize informarion into cognirive structures or schemas that serve as (fallible) mental templates for handling incoming informarion and as guides for acring upon it. Of the many schemas that have been hypothesized to exist, the one that is most relevant to my experience at Ford is the norion of a script (Abelson, 1976, 1981). My central thesis is this: My oum schematized (scripted) knowledge influenced me to perceive recall issues in terms of the prevailing decision environment and to unconsciously overlook keyfeatures of the Pinto case, mainly because they did not Jit an existing script. Although the outcomes of the case carry retrospectively obvious ethical overtones, the schemas driving my perceptions and actions precluded consideration of the issues in ethical terms because the scripts did not include ethical dimensions. Script schemas A schema is a cognirive framework that people use to impose structure upon informarion, situarions, and expectarions to facilitate understanding (Gioia and Poole, 1984; Taylor and Crocker, 1981). Schemas derive from considerarion of prior experience or vicarious learning that results in the formarion of “organized” knowledge — knowledge that, once formed, precludes the necessity for further acrive cognirion. As a consequence, such structured knowledge allows virtually effortless interpretarion of informarion and events (cf.. Canter and Mischel, 1979). A script is a specialized type of schema that retains knowledge of acrions appropriate for specific situarions and contexts (Abelson, 1976, 1981). One of the most important characterisrics of scripts is that they simultaneously provide a cognirive framework for understanding informarion and events as well as a guide to appropriate behavior to deal with the situarion faced. They thus serve as linkages between cognirion and acrion (Gioia and Manz, 1985). The structuring of knowledge in scripted form is a fundamental human informarion processing tendency that in many ways results in a relarively closed cognirive system that influences both perceprion and acrion. Scripts, like all schemas, operate on the basis of prototypes, which are abstract representarions that contain the main features or characterisrics of a 386 Dennis A. Gioia given knowledge category (e.g., “safety problems”). Protoscripts (Gioia and Poole, 1984) serve as templates against which incoming informarion can be assessed. A pattern in current informarion that generally matches the template associated with a given script signals that acrive thought and analysis is not required. Under these condirions the entire exisring script can be called forth and enacted automarically and unconsciously, usually without adjustment for subtle differences in information patterns that might be important. Given the complexity of the organizarional world, it is obvious that the schemarizing or scripring of knowledge implies a great informarion processing advantage — a decision maker need not acrively think about each new presentarion of informarion, situarions, or problems; the mode of handling such problems has already been worked out in advance and remanded to a working stock of knowledge held in individual (or organizarional) memory. Scripted knowledge saves a significant amount of mental work, a savings that in fact prevents the cognirive paralysis that would inevitably come from trying to treat each specific instance of a class of problems as a unique case that requires contemplarion. Scripted decision making is thus efficient decision making but not necessarily good decision making (Gioia and Poole, 1984). Of course, every advantage comes with its own set of built-in disadvantages. There is a price to pay for scripted knowledge. On the one hand, exisring scripts lead people to selecrively perceive informarion that is consistent with a script and thus to ignore anomalous informarion. Conversely, if there is missing informarion, the gaps in knowledge are filled with expected features suppHed by the script (Bower et al, 1979; Graesser et al, 1980). In some cases, a pattern that matches an exisring script, except for some key differences, can be “tagged” as a disrincrive case (Graesser et al, 1979) and thus be made more memorable. In the worst case scenario, however, a situarion that does not fit the characterisrics of the scripted perspecrive for handling problem cases often is simply not noriced. Scripts thus offer a viable explanarion for why experienced decision makers (perhaps especially experienced decision makers) tend to overlook what others would construe as obvious factors in making a decision. Given the relarively rare occurrence of truly novel informarion, the nature of script processing imphes that it is a default mode of organizarional cognirion. That is, instead of spending the predominance of their mental energy thinking in some acrive fashion, decision makers might better be characterized as typically not thinking, i.e., dealing with informarion in a mode that is akin to “cruising on automaric pilot” (cf, Gioia, 1986). The scripted view casts decision makers as needing some sort of prod in the form of novel or unexpected informarion to kick them into a thinking mode — a prod that often does not come because of the wealth of similar data that they must process. Therefore, instead of focusing what people pay attenrion to, it might be more enlightening to focus on what they do not pay attenrion to. Pinto problem perception and scripts It is illustrative to consider my situarion in handling the early stages of the Pinto fire case in light of script theory. When I was dealing with the first tricklingin of field reports that might have suggested a significant problem with the Pinto, the reports were essenrially similar to many others that I was dealing with (and dismissing) all the rime. The sort of informarion they contained, which did not convey enough prototypical features to capture my attenrion, never got past my screening script. I had seen this type of informarion pattern before (hundreds of rimes!); I was making this kind of decision automarically every day. I had trained myself to respond to prototypical cues, and these didn’t fit the relevant prototype for crisis cases. (Yes, the Pinto reports fit a prototype — but it was a prototype for “normal accidents” that did not deviate significandy from expected problems). The frequency of the reports relarive to other, more serious problems (i.e., those that displayed more characterisric features of safety problems) also did not pass my scripted criteria for singling out the Pinto case. Consequently, I looked right past them. Overlooking uncharacterisric cues also was exacerbated by the nature of the job. The overwhelming informarion overload that characterized the role as well as its hecric pace actually forced a greater reliance on scripted responses. It was impossible to handle thejob requirements without relying on some Pinto Fires and Personal Ethics sort of automaric way of assessing whether a case deserved acrive attenrion. There was so much to do and so much informarion to attend to that the only way to deal with it was by means of schemaric processing. In fact, the one anomaly in the case that might have cued me to gravity of the problem (the field report accompanied by graphic photographs) still did not disringuish the problem as one that was disrincrive enough to snap me out of my standard response mode and tag it as a failure that deserved closer monitoring. Even the presence of an emorional component that might have short-circuited standard script processing instead became part of the script itself. Months of squelching the disturbing emorions associated with serious safety problems soon made muffled emorions a standard (and not very salient) component of the script for handling any safety problem. This observarion, that emorion was muted by experience, and therefore de-emphasized in the script, differs from Fiske’s (1982) widely accepted posirion that emorion is ried to the top of a schema (i.e., is the most salient and inirially-tapped aspect of schemaric processing). On the basis of my experience, I would argue that for organizarion members trained to control emorions to perform the job role (cf., Pitre, 1990), emorion is either not a part of the internalized script, or at best becomes a difficult-toaccess part of any script for job performance. The one instance of emorion penetraring the operaring script was the revulsion that swept over me at the sight of the burned vehicle at the return depot. That event was so strong that it prompted me to put the case up for preliminary considerarion (in theorerical terms, it prompted me cognirively to “tag” the Pinto case as a potenrially disrincrive one). I soon “came to my senses,” however, when rarional considerarion of the problem characterisrics suggested that they did not meet the scripted criteria that were consensually shared among members of the Field Recall Office. At the preliminary review other members of the decision team, enacring their own scripts in the absence of my emorional experience, wondered why I had even brought the case up. To me this meering demonstrated that even when controlled analyric informarion processing occurred, it was nonetheless based on prior schematizarion of informarion. In other words, even when informarion processing was not automarically executed, it srill 387 depended upon schemas (cf., Gioia, 1986). As a result of the social construcrion of the situarion, I ended up agreeing vwth my colleagues and voring not to recall. The remaining major issue to be dealt vnth, of course, concerns the apparent shift in my values. In a period of less than two years I appeared to change my stripes and adopt the cultural values of the organizarion. How did that apparent shift occur? Again, scripts are relevant. I would argue that my pre-Ford values for changing corporate America were bona fide. I had internalized values for doing what was right as I then understood “rightness” in grand terms. They key is, however, that I had not internalized a script for enacring those values in any specific context outside my limited experience. The insider’s view at Ford, of course, provided me with a specific and immediate context for developing such a script. Scripts are formed from salient experience and there was no more salient experience in my relarively young life than joining a major corporarion and moving quickly into a posirion of clear and present responsibility. The strongest possible parameters for script formarion were all there, not only because of the job role specificarions, but also from the corporate culture. Organizarional culture, in one very powerful sense, amounts to a coUecrion of scripts writ large. Did I sell out? No. Were my cognirive structures altered by salient experience? Without quesrion. Scripts for understanding and acrion were formed and reformed in a relarively short rime in a way that not only altered perceprions of issues but also the likely acrions associated with those altered perceprions. I might characterize the differing cognirive structures as “outsider” versus “insider” scripts. I view them also as “idealist” versus “realist” scripts. I might further note that the outsider/idealist script was one that was more individually-based than the insider/ realist script, which was more collecrive and subject to the influence of the corporate milieu and culture. Personal idenrity as captured in the revised script became much more corporate than individual. Given that scripts are socially constructed and reconstructed cognirive structures, it is understandable that their content and process would be much more responsive to the corporate culture, because of its saliency and immediacy. The recall coordinator’s job was serious business. The scripts associated with it influenced me much 388 Dennis A. Gioia more than I influenced it. Before I went to Ford I would have argued strongly that Ford had an ethical obligarion to recall. After I left Ford I now argue and teach that Ford had an ethical obligarion to recall. But, while I was there, I perceived no strong obligarion to recall and I remember no strong ethical overtones to the case whatsoever. It was a very straightforward decision, driven by dominant scripts for the rime, place, and context. Whither ethics and scripts? Most models of ethical decision making in organizations implicitly assume that people recognize and think about a moral or ethical dilemma when they are confronted with one (cf., Kohlberg, 1969 and Trevino’s review in this issue). I call this seemingly fundamental assumprion into quesrion. The unexplored ethical issue for me is the arguably prevalent case where organizarional representarives are not . aware that they are dealing with a problem that might have ethical overtones. If the case involves a familiar class of problems or issues, it is likely to be handled via exisring cognirive structures or scripts — scripts that typically include no ethical component in their cognitive content. Although we might hope that people in charge of important decisions like vehicle safety recalls might engage in acrive, logical analysis and consider the subtleries in the many different situarions they face, the context of the decisions and their necessary reliance on schemaric processing tends to preclude such considerarion (cf, Gioia, 1989). Accounring for the subtleries of ethical considerarion in work situarions that are typically handled by schema-based processing is very difficult indeed. Scripts are built out of situarions that are normal, not those that are abnormal, ill-structured, or unusual (which often can characterize ethical domains). The ambiguiries associated with most ethical dilemmas imply that such situarions demand a “custom” decision, which means that the inclusion of an ethical dimension as a component of an evolving script is not easy to accomplish. How might ethical considerarions be internalized as part of the script for understanding and acrion? It is easier to say what will not be likely to work than what will. Clearly, mere menrion of ethics in policy or training manuals will not do the job. Even exhortarions to be concerned with ethics in decision making are seldom likely to migrate into the script. Just as clearly, codes of ethics typically will not work. They are too often cast at a level of generality that can not be associated with any specific script. Furthermore, for all pracrical purposes, codes of ethics often are stated in a way that makes them “contextfree,” which makes them virtually impossible to associate with acrive scripts, which always are context-bound. Tacrics for script development that have more potenrial involve learning or training that concentrates on exposure to informarion or models that explicitly display a focus on ethical considerarions. This implies that ethics be included in job descriprions, management development training, mentoring, etc. Tacrics for script revision involve learning or training that concentrate on “script-breaking” examples. Organizarion members must be exposed either to vicarious or personal experiences that interrupt tacit knowledge of “appropriate” acrion so that script revision can be iniriated. Training scenarios, and especially role playing, that portray expected sequences that are then interrupted to call explicit attenrion to ethical issues can be tagged by the perceiver as requiring attenrion. This tacric amounts to installing a decision node in the revised scripts that tells the actor “Now think” (Abelson, 1981). Only by means of similar script-breaking strategies can exisring cognitive structures be modified to accommodate the necessary cycles of automaric and controlled processing (cf., Louis and Sutton, 1991). The upshot of the scripted view of organizarional understanding and behavior is both an encouragement and an indictment of people facing situarions laced with ethical overtones. It is encouraging because it suggests that organizarional decision makers are not necessarily lacking in ethical standards; they are simply fallible informarion processors who fail to norice the ethical implicarions of a usual way of handling issues. It is an indictment because ethical dimensions are not usually a central feature of the cognirive structures that drive decision making. Obviously, they should be, but it will take substanrial concentrarion on the ethical dimension of the corporate culture, as well as overt attempts to emphasize ethics in educarion, training, and decision making before typical organizarional scripts are Pinto Fires and Personal Ethics likely to be modified to include the crucial ethical component. References Abelson, R P.: 1976, ‘Script Processing in Attitude Formation and Decision-Making’, in J. S. Carroll and J. W. Payne (eds.). Cognition and Social Behavior (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ), pp. 33-45. Abelson, R, P.: 1981, ‘Psychological Status of the Script Concept’, American Psychologist 36, pp. 715—729. Anderson, J. and Whitten, L: 1976, ‘Auto Maker Shuns Safer Gas Tank’, Washington Post pecember 30), p. B-7. Bower, G. H., Black, J. B. and Turner, T. J.: 1979, ‘Scripts in Memory for Text’, Cognitive Psychology 11, pp. 177—220. Cantor, N. and Mischel, W.: 1979, ‘Prototypes in Person Perception’, in L. Berkowitz (ed.). Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 12 (Academic Press, New York), pp. 3-51. Cullen, F. T., Maakestad, W. J. and Cavender, G.: 1987, Corporate Crime Under Attack (Anderson Publishing Co., Chicago). Dowie, M.: 1977, ‘How Ford Put Two Million Firetraps on Wheels’, Business and Society Review 23, pp. 46—55. Fiske, S. T.: 1982, ‘Schema-Triggered Affect: Applications to Sodal Perception’, in M. S. Clark and S. T. Fiske (eds.). Affect and Cognition (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ), pp. 55—78. Gatewood, E. and Carroll, A. B.: 1983, ‘The Anatomy of Corporate Social Response: The Rely, Firestone 500, and Pinto Cases’, Business Horizons, pp. 9—16. Gellerman, S: 1986, ‘Why “Good” Managers Make Bad Ethical Choices’, Harvard Business Review (fuly—August), pp. 85-90. Gioia, D. A.: 1989, ‘Self-Serving Bias as a Self-Sensemaking Strategy’, in P. Rosenfeld, and R Giacalone (eds.). Impression Management in the Organization (LEA, Hillsdale, NJ), pp. 219-234. Gioia, D. A.: 1986, ‘Symbols, Scripts, and Sensemaking: Creating Meaning in the Organizational Experience’, in H. P. Sims, Jr. and D. A. Gioia (eds.). The Thinking Organization: Dynamics of Organizational Social Cognition 0ossey-Bass, San Francisco), pp. 49—74. Gioia, D. A. and Manz, C. C: 1985, ‘Linking Cognition and Behavior: A Script Processing Interpretation of Vicarious Learning’, Academy of Management Review 10, pp. 527— 539. 389 Gioia, D. A. and Poole, P. P.: 1984, ‘Scripts in Organizational Behavior’, Academy ofManagement Review 9, pp. 449—459. Graesser, A. C. , Gordon, S. G. and Sav^fyer, J. D.: 1979, ‘Recognition Memory for Typical and Atypical Actions in Scripted Activities: Test of Script Pointer and Tag Hypothesis’, yoMTOfl/ of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 18, pp. 319-332. Graesser, A. C , Woll, S. B., Kowalski, D.J. and Smith, D. A.: 1980, ‘Memory for Typical and Atypical Actions in Scripted Activities’, Joumal of Experimental Psychology 6, pp. 503-515. Kohlberg, L: 1969, ‘Stage and. Sequence: The CognitiveDevelopment Approach to Socialization’, in D. A. Goslin (ed.). Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research (RandMcNally, Chicago), pp. 347-480. Louis, M. R and Sutton, R I.: 1991, ‘Switching Cognitive Gears: From Habits of Mind to Active Thinking’, Human Relations 44, pp. 55—76. Perrow, C: 1984, Normal Accidents (Basic Books, New York). Pitre, E.: 1990, ‘Emotional Control’, working paper, the Pennsylvania State University. Swigert, V. L. and Farrell, R A.: 1980-81, ‘Corporate Homicide: Definitional Processes in the Creation of Deviance’, Law and Society Review 15, pp. 170—183. Taylor, S. E. and Crocker, J.: 1981, ‘Schematic Bases of Social Information Processing’, in E. T. Higgins, C. P. Herman, and M. P. Zanna (eds.). Social Cognition 1 (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ), pp. 89-134. Trevino, L.: 1986, ‘Ethical Decision Making in Organizations: A Person-Situation Interactionist Model’, Academy ofManagement Review 11, pp. 601—617. Trevino, L: 1992, ‘Moral Reasoning and Business Ethics: Implications for Research, Education and Manag’ement’, Journal ofBusiness Ethics 11,445—459. Valasquez, M., Moberg, D. J. and Cavanaugh, G. F.: 1983, ‘Organizational Statesmanship and Dirty Politics: Ethical Guidelines for the Organizational Politician’, Organizational Dynamics (Autumn), pp. 65—80. Van Maanen, J.: 1978, ‘People Processing: Strategies of Organizadonal Socialization’, Organizational Dynamia (Summer), pp. 19—36. Pennsylvania State University, Smeal College ofBusiness Administration, University Park, PA 16802, USA. Instructions – PLEASE READ THEM CAREFULLY • The Assignment must be submitted on Blackboard (WORD format only) via an allocated folder. • Assignments submitted through email will not be accepted. • Students are advised to make their work clear and well presented, marks may be reduced for poor presentation. This includes filling your information on the cover page. • Students must mention the question number clearly in their answer. • Late submission will NOT be accepted. • Avoid plagiarism, the work should be in your own words, copying from students or other resources without proper referencing will result in ZERO marks. No exceptions. • No pictures containing text will be accepted and will be considered plagiarism). • Submissions without this cover page will NOT be accepted. ASSIGNMENT-1 Weightage: 5 Marks Learning Outcomes: LO 1.1 Demonstrate a solid understanding of prominent theories of ethics and morality. L.O 1.6 Describe a comprehensive framework for analyzing and resolving ethical issues and dilemmas in an organization. “Pinto Fires and Personal Ethics: A Script Analysis of Missed Opportunities by Dennis A.Cioia” published in Journal of Business Ethics. 11: 379-389, 199. 1992 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. Read the article and answer the questions Case Questions Put yourself in the role of the recall coordinator for Ford Motor Co. It’s 1973, and field reports have been coming in about rear-end collisions, fires, and fatalities. You must decide whether to recall the automobile. What will you decide? 1. Identify the relevant facts, pertinent ethical issues, and points of ethical conflict. (1.25 Marks) 2. Identify the relevant affected parties, the possible consequences of alternative courses of action. (1.25 Marks) 3. Identify relevant obligations, the relevant community standards that should guide you as a person of integrity, and Check your gut. (2.5 Marks) Guidelines for the assignment: ✓ This is an individual assignment, which is part of your course score. It requires effort and critical thinking. ✓ Use font Times New Roman. Use 1.5 or double line spacing with left Justify all paragraphs. ✓ Use the footer function to insert the page number. ✓ Ensure that you follow the APA style in your project. ✓ Your project report length should be between 400 to 500 words. Useful links: ➢ APA reference system ➢ About plagiarism Answer: 1. 2.


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