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by Joseph L. Badaracco

Reviewed by : Rafaela Artner, Jiawen Mai, Yan Shen, Ken Wong, Kai Yan
• Defining moments
• An individual’s defining moments
• A manager’s defining moments
• An organization’s defining moments
• Conclusion
Which choice will you make?
Put yourself in the following situation:
 You are standing in front of a burning building.

 You can run to one part of the building and save a

single child, or you can run to another part and

save three children.
 There is no way to save everyone. You must choose

between saving three children and saving one.

 The child standing alone is your daughter.

Defining moments : when managers must choose between right and right P.39
Main Point of the Book
 Rather than choosing between right and wrong,
ethical or unethical, this book focuses on business
people’s choice between right and right.

 “This book offers practical advice for reflecting on

right-versus-right conflicts and finding ways to
resolve them. In exploring three such conflicts in
depth, it provides a framework for thinking through
these difficult decisions.”
Defining Moments
 This book argues that right-versus-right choices
are best understood as defining moments.
 3 characteristics of defining moments:


Shaping Testing
Defining Moments

Mission statements and ethical

guidelines of companies
• Usually, grand
principles are NOT Legal responsibilities
helpful in defining
moments. Fundamental principles of
traditional moral rules
An Individual’s Defining Moment

 Steve Lewis, an African American, works as a junior

analyst in a prestigious New York investment bank.
 He is a diligent employee and loves his job.
 Offered to go to a presentation primarily
represented by Caucasian males.
The Dilemma

• Whether or not to participate in a presentation to help with a perspective client in St.

Louis without doing any thing for the project previously.

Attend Not Attend

Opportunities “Serve as an African-

American potted plant”

For the sake of others “Phony”

Capitalism “Discrimination”
Guidance for Dilemma

 “How do my feelings and instincts define the

 “How deep are the moral roots of the conflicting
values that are setting the right-versus-right
 “This is my way, what is your way?”
 “What will work in the world as it is?”
Individual’s Decision
• Reluctant to be used as a token black, or his personal
philosophy of “action over words,” Lewis wanted to earn
his position.

• “On balance, Lewis was pleased and relieved about what

he had done. He believed he had defined the dilemma
soundly, at least in terms of his experiences and values.”

• What do we learn from this individual case?

A Manager’s Defining Moment

 Peter Adario - head of the marketing department

of Sayer Micro World
 He was married and had three children.
 A successful salesman, and a branch manager who
supervised 50 people.
The Dilemma
 Conflict between Lisa Walters and Kathryn McNeil.
 Lisa Walters, a senior manager, a single woman in her late twenties.
 McNeil worked for Walter
 Kathryn McNeil is a single mother with a six-year-old son.
 Walters wants to fire McNeil for falling behind schedule in her work
and Adario had to decide whether to do so.
 McNeil was working 60 hours a week, she was not meeting
expectations and Adario was inclined to find a replacement for
McNeil and then let her go.
 Serving the interests of Sayer’s shareholders and customers
 Peter Adario believed in creating a “family-friendly” workplace. He
viewed situation as an opportunity to do something.
Manager’s Decision

• Peter Adario plans to save McNeil’s job.

• Arranged to meet with Walters and McNeil to tell them

to settle an agreement before the end of the meeting.

• If failed—Adario would step in with suggestions.

Results and Influence
 Walters discuses the situation with several other
managers who had offered to help fire McNeil.
 McNeil was fire.
 Families are an impediment to the efficient
operation of the company.
 Ignoring the chain of command.
Reasons for Mistakes

• The role of good intentions

and lofty ethical sentiments
Overestimated in defining moments.

• The role of management

skills and effort, as well as
Underestimated shrewdness and street
Guidance for Dilemma
 What other strong, persuasive, competing
interpretations of the situation or problems that I hope
to use as a defining moment for my organization? What
kind of interpretation is most likely to win a contest of
interpretation inside an organization and influence the
thinking and behavior of other people?
 What is the cash value of this situation?
 “Have I orchestrated a process that can make the
values I care about become the truth for my
 “Am I playing to win?”
What is learned?
 He found he had much more ambivalence about his
 He felt he had rid himself of a naive view of what it
takes to redefine the values of an organization.
Organization’s Defining Moment

 Edouard Sakiz, CEO of Roussel-Uclaf, the

pharmaceutical company that developed the
abortion pill, RU 486.

 Sakiz would make the final decisions on introducing

the drug.
The Dilemma

Distribute Not distribute

Long-term relationship Objection from the largest

with the French shareholder of the
government laboratory company

Support from China Objection from

antiabortion groups

Great contribution to safe

abortions Low profitability
Organization’s Decision
• Sakiz announced publicly that "the company was suspending
distribuion of the drug because of pressure from antiabortion

• The decision sparked astonishment and anger from the supporters

of the drug.

• The French minister of health threatened that if the company did

not resume distribution, the government would transfer the patent
to a company that would.

• Roussel-Uclaf announced afterward that it would distribute RU 486

after all.
Guidance for Dilemma
 “Have I done all I can to secure my position and the
strength and stability of my organizations?”

 “Have I thought creatively and imaginatively about

my organization’s role in society and its relationship
to its stakeholders?”

 “Should I play the lion or fox?”

Guidance for Dilemma
 Sakiz played the role as a “fox” in this case.

What Sakiz did What Sakiz did not


Say that "pressure from anti-abortion

groups" was responsible for his say the drug is
decision. immoral

Test the commitment of his potential

supporters, and then let the strongest say the company
of them, the French government, take will abandon the
responsibility for the final decision drug.
Guidance for Dilemma
 The government was now ultimately responsible
for putting RU 486 on the market.

 The company is relieved of the moral burden

weighing on its shoulders.
Guidance for Dilemma

Managers need
to find the Virtu
between Virtu
and Virtue,
manoeuvre and
aspirations. Virtue

How shall we prepare ourselves for right-versus-right conflicts?

Leave some time and space for quiet

personal reflection.

Learn from the lives and experiences

of the role models around you.

Form a strong but personal ethical

foundation for the future.

 Intellectual: It synthesizes important ideas from various

authors, philosophers and leaders.

 Thoughtful: It fills a gap in traditional academic setting and


 Practical: It guides us through different choices between

right and right.

 Far-reaching: It leads us to a level of thought, analysis and

decision making ability that will influence the way we make
important decisions and choices in the future.