Peer Reviewer #1
- Does the author provide an original perspective, with contributions towards research, application or policy?
The subject of firm governance, ethics in management, and sustainability of firms has been around for decades, but they have not been raised in the teaching and research agendas of management and business schools. Tore Høie’s book is original, therefore, in that it is intended for university classrooms and seminars, undergraduate and graduate courses on management systems and ethics presented in business and management schools. Tore is right when he observes that traditional management education, which emphasizes management as a science and ignores systems of firm governance, no longer reflect the concerns of the modern globalized world. The book offers an original perspective, with contributions towards research, application, application and policy in management studies.
- Does the scope and coverage of this book adequately represent a balanced and complete review of this subject? Are there serious omissions?
Since Høie considers the unique focus on the bottom line and financials to be the principle deficiency in traditional management studies, he stresses the opposite in his book, i.e., companies that have ethical standards built into their operations procedures and teach ethical behavior norms to employees, allow employees to participate in stakeholder management, and cooperate fully with trade unions as vital organizational components, are shown to be competitively successful in the market place. He stresses the importance of Japanese and German Mittelstand firms in this regard, but the books chief focus is on Nordic management, pinpointing in his exposition the economic success of the firms.
The scale and scope of the discussion covers a stakeholder basis for ethics and its importance for the sustainability of Nordic firms For example, in Chapter five, he focuses on customers as key stakeholders, in Chapter 6 on employees as stakeholders, stressing the difference between USA and Nordic management models, in Chapter 8 the emphasis is on ownership models, e.g. financial engineering and ownership as a profession, in Chapter 9 he emphasizes the role of ethics in balancing the needs of stakeholders and in the development of principles of governance vital to a firm’s sustainability, and in Chapter 10 he presents a resume of management principles derived from the book’s discussions.
The book, therefore, offers a balanced and complete presentation of the subject. There are no serious omissions. The book in this respect is a comprehensive improvement on other books on the subject, e.g., Andre Savitz et al, The Triple Bottom Line, Paul Hawken, et al, Natural Capitalism, Jeffrey Liker, The Toyata Way, which he mentions as competitive works and others that he does not mention, e.g., Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results, Johnson and Bröms, Profits Beyond Measure: Extraordinary Results through Attention to Process and People.
- Do you have any suggestions for enhancing the presentation?
Since I have not seen the manuscript in its entirety, I would only suggest some close reading by a good proofreader to enhance the English presentation.
- Is there a need for a book of this nature?
Høie points out in his proposal that the world is developing rapidly but management science is not.” Although the importance of the issues he discusses has been much in the public eye recently, the discussion has occurred at the margin of management studies circles. The book places the subjects of ethical management, stakeholder governance, sustainability, front and center in undergraduate and graduate management programs in business and management schools. This is a difficult task because it requires MBA student curricula and research graduates to abandon the postwar management studies paradigm. His book invites management students to take a close look at management models that do not conform with the old paradigm but which are, in the current management educational context, not only germane to the quest for more fairness in the distribution of the fruits of enterprise among a firm’s stakeholders but in increasing the performance of firms in the marketplace.
- Do you recommend that this book be published?
Yes, I strongly, for the reasons outlined, recommend its publication.
This is an important work in Management Science. It promotes Nordic Management that has experienced considerable success lately. In the process it criticizes established management theories, and the book may well cause a paradigm shift.
Criticisms of mainline theories have gained momentum lately, fuelled partly by struggling or failing corporations, like GM, Ford, Enron, Dell and Wal-Mart, in 2016 Wells Fargo and Valeant. An alternative is needed, and Nordic Management could be such an alternative. The book is launched at the right time, and with the right topic. The perspectives are the only solution to the problems we are facing now; and I find it especially important when someone with background from both academia and practice is writing about it. I agree with the author, and his attitude encourages me.
The book presents a comprehensive picture of an important topic. Few books cover the combination of ethics and organisation / management. Available books are fragmented. In addition to ethic, Høie covers organisation structure, management philosophy, stakeholder theory, quality and service. This is strongly anchored in international standards like ISO 26000. This understanding of interrelations (context) is unique.
The manuscript covers breadth and depth, with a number of important and updated examples. Some are related to current debate, and any well informed reader will feel at home. Also, examples are from business, government and voluntary organisations, expanding from a business-only scope. An instructive example is Red Cross, but even the World Bank has good initiatives. Finnish schools made a plan in 1968, with empowerment to teachers and other unique innovations. Too few follow.
Most books on ethics and work life are directed at rare examples and difficult situations, showing little contact with practical life. Høie provides overviews and points at current issues and dilemmas, known to most managers and employees. The manuscript combines theory context with practical examples and therefore addresses both theory and practices. The progression is logical, following a common thread that captivates the reader. The language is easy, spiced with humor to make the book accessible to readers.
More specific examples:
Many companies are defensive on the subject of ethics, economics trumps long term prudence. This is well documented in the book. An example is Deepwater Horizon, now a major film, where economics led to savings on security and a confused authority structure, and finally to a major economic (and environmental) disaster.
The battle for an ethical understanding has continued for years, with few wins. The examples from finance and corruption in large corporations are cause for concern.
Ethical standards can be improved by making top management informed and accountable, however laws are not updated to this task. In a number of countries corruption and dishonesty is part of established culture.
The three chapters on service, quality and design are especially well written. The reflections are not paralleled in any texts. The connection between ethics and service/quality/design is convincingly presented.
Key theorists like Fayol, Simon and Drucker point to important ethical considerations, the many sobering quotes adds to reading pleasure. But ethical thought is fragmented and implicit. No theory work has made ethics a main theme. Høie sees ethics as a continuation of theory, and a way to structure theory.
Summaries and questions following chapters can help the reader to understand better. Also useful is the comprehensive literature list and references. New literature is included. Links enable the reader to make own searches.
The Glossary is unique in both management and ethics. It is a help to understanding, but also a way to see connections between subjects.
The book is for everyone, but if it becomes a standard text for the 10000 business schools teaching MBA, the World will get needed inspiration in the right direction. Currently there are unfortunately no alternatives.