Integrity Matters
November 1, 2006

Skilling's sentence falls short of delivering justice

Question: (E-264)

Dear Jim:

Ex-Enron executive Jeff Skilling will spend his next 24 years in prison. He stole hundreds of millions of dollars while costing Enron's employees and investors billions. Will his incarceration deliver justice?


Justice is defined as fairness, evenhandedness, honesty and integrity. Is it possible to "make things right" for all who were harmed by the criminals at the top levels at Enron? Probably not! Justice is unlikely given those parameters.

The real harm is separate from the penalties to be paid. To some degree, those who are hearing prison doors slam are a reminder that legitimate business priorities need to take center stage or integrity will suffocate.

Companies built to last are different from those simply created to generate immediate returns.

Enron turned out to be a giant shell game, a sophisticated scheme that fleeced multiple stakeholders with little regard for the future. Its investors, suppliers, customers and employees all suffered because of mismanagement.

It's time for a change! Jeff Skilling heads to jail and society scurries to find positive business leadership models. From the movie, "Field of Dreams," we are "remembering what once was good and could be good again."

A successful 61-year-old entrepreneur from India, N. R. Narayana Murthy, was quoted in the Sept. 20 Wall Street Journal saying, "Great companies that are built to last hundreds of years require a foundation that goes beyond revenues, profits and market capitalization."

He even refers to Gandhi's maxim: "Be the change in the world you want to see."

For organizations to achieve longevity and impact, they need to:

  • Reach out to society and build goodwill, providing opportunities regardless of social and economic circumstance.
  • Strive for operational transparency, because the softest pillow is a clear conscience.
  • Establish and communicate values, listening to the ideas of others - especially younger people.
  • Maintain meritocracy with competition and courtesy.
  • Benchmark against competitors, continuously improving speed, accuracy and profitability.
  • Embrace a global economic system with production machinery that leverages technology and communication, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Hold fast to fundamental values and remain vibrant.
Integrity suggests we can "be the change in the world we want to see."

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