Volume 1, Issue 3, 2001
Managers Develop Moral Accountability
The Impact of Socratic Dialogue
How can organisations ‘manage for integrity’? Two differing approaches have been called the compliance strategy and the integrity strategy. While the first seeks to instil compliance with externally imposed standards, the integrity strategy seeks to teach ethical decision-making and values as well, so that ‘ethical
thinking and awareness...[are]...part of every manager’s mental equipment’. In this paper the Dutch consultant philosopher Hans Bolten reports on how Socratic dialogue has helped managers develop ethical capacities and responsibility. Drawing on research with dialogue members he concludes that organisations
that care about ethics cannot rely on abstract moral codes and rules. He argues that they need Socratic dialogue as an instrument if their managers are to shape moral guidelines they both agree upon and can apply in practice. And he shows how dialogue can foster in managers the readiness to give an account of their actions, a readiness implicit in the idea of moral action itself. Thus Socratic dialogue can help create a culture in which morally accountable action is the rule, not the exception, and in which the responsibility to give an account of one’s actions has its rightful place.