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Instructor Guidelines (Hughes Reporting System)

Structure of the assignment

Students are assigned as homework the reading from the case and the NRC's procedure. The first few minutes of class are spent introducing the exercise and answering questions about the case and the NRC document in light of the exercise. Students are then divided into four groups representing upper management (e.g. Reismueller, Neiendam, Himmel), middle management (Saia, Temple, LaRue), quality control (Ibarra), and floor staff (Goodearl, Lightner, Reddick, etc.). To make the group sizes work with your class you can delete one of the perspectives or have multiple groups representing a perspective. Use your imagination. Each group then designs a reporting system to handle differing professional opinions

Every system must have provision for (1) individuals to make a report (2) evaluating those reports (3) making decisions based on the evaluation and (4) communicating both the evaluation and the decision to at least the person who made the report. Systems can diverge widely other than these constraints. Students will need to make decision about the status of the report maker (anonymous — no one knows the identity or confidential — a few person know the identity but it is kept secret or the reporter is always identified. They will need to determine what roles and qualifications will be for those evaluating the reports. These are two examples. There is a large number of decisions to make, and the document from the NRC can suggest these decisions to students.

Each group then makes a three minute report to the class about their system. After each report, the other groups are each allowed one minute to present a critique of the system.

Integrating the exercise into a class

This is a useful exercise for the whistleblowing section of the class. It might also be used in the section on professionalism or on the ethics tests. Using the ethics tests with this exercise helps to emphasize that the tests apply not just to individual decision, but to corporate decisions on policy.

Time required

This exercise will take all of a one hour class, and the pace will need to be brisk to make it work. It might be better to spread the work over more than one day, with design of the policies done on one day and reporting/critique done on a second day.

Making and grading assignments

As a final homework exercise, students might be asked to write individual papers using the ethics tests to evaluate one or more of the proposed systems.

Possible difficulties

Since this exercise is speculative in nature (what might work at Hughes) students may have some difficulty in getting down to a procedure when they don't know all the details they would like. But answering detail often become an infinite loop, since often students want detail that will make the right choice "obvious." There is no single obvious right answer for designing a reporting system. Stick to the documents rather than speculate on what-ifs. It might be helpful for students to imagine themselves as consultants to their client (e.g. upper management or floor staff) and that the information they have about reporting problems in the company if all they can get.

Some students might note that fraud is not covered by the NRC's procedures, and think that a reporting system in this case is not useful since LaRue was clearly engaged in fraud. If students look back through all four of the incidents involving Goodearl, there is at least one (e.g. Shirley Reddick( in which it is not clear whether the action there was appropriate or not. So, some reporting system will be needed for these harder cases.

Some student may be tempted to simply follow the straightforward model of the NRC and not put much thought into the system. This will defeat one purpose of the exercise, which is to get student to think about what a good reporting system is like. Make sure that student consider the consequences of their decisions in their deliberations. In fact, you might want to impose some of the ethics tests as a way of making sure this happens.

The NRC document has all the difficulties and vagaries of an official government document. It might help students to know that the actual handbook starts on page 11 of the PDF file. The pages before that lay out who the various people involved are and what their roles are.