Interview Segments on Topic: Ethical Decisionmaking/Behavior
Ray Jordan is senior vice president of corporate affairs at Amgen, the world’s largest independent biotech firm. A pharma veteran, he previously was vice president of communications and information at Johnson & Johnson, and brought 27 years of experience in global health care to his position at Amgen, having spent 17 years at Pfizer before joining J&J.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Johnson & Johnson traditionally is one of the world’s most trusted companies. A lot of people know about the famous Johnson & Johnson credo that spells out the responsibilities to constituents and several publics. How does Johnson & Johnson ensure that the credo, which was developed a long time ago, remains applicable to the company today?
JORDAN: Right. The credo emerged in the early 1940s and has been a centerpiece for how we’ve thought about our responsibilities for the 60+ years since, and the embedding of it, the way it becomes a part of the fabric of the company is absolutely essential—in my mind—to the culture at J&J. I would say there are two components of that. One is the fact that it just needs to be and is a part of each decision making process that impacts stakeholders. It has to be recognized as real and as driving decisions. People in meetings have to feel that it’s there; it has to be not just on the wall, but in the discussion with people so that really comes from mentoring, from behavior modeling. It’s toned from the top. It’s toned from the middle. So it’s just seen as a way of helping you make decisions. That’s one. The second way which I think is supportive of that, but could not replace it are to create opportunities for people to engage more directly with the elements of the credo, to build better understanding and so on. I’ll give you one example of that from the last couple of years, which is where we established a tabletop process where people as small groups could stand around a table with a map of sort of a journey through the credo, and actually would talk about their own circumstances, the situations they faced. How did this part of the credo come up? Where was it challenged? Where did you have tradeoffs that you felt you had to make? So it was more of an exercise that engaged people. But again, that’s supportive of what to my mind is the core; which is seeing it in the room, in the decision making process.
INTERVIEWER: Is it important for—not just J&J, but other corporations to have an ethical mission statement or credo?
JORDAN: We could call it different things. I think being clear on your identity and your character is absolutely essential. And in the discussions that we’re having today with the Arthur Page Society, we’re talking about corporate character as the foundation for really driving the communication practice today, and the definition of that character, and being really conscious about what it is, and how you’re describing it is essential. We’ve been very fortunate to have the credo as a cornerstone for our character, but any company would benefit from time spent around finding its character. And even with the credo, we still spend time thinking about, what are the commitments in terms of who we are and what we stand for, given the markets that we’re in, given the environment that we’re in. So the short answer is yes. Critical.
INTERVIEWER: What education or previous professional experience best prepares a person for the rigors of ethical decision making in the communications field?
JORDAN: In that regard, I would put the emphasis on having been involved deeply in business decisions through your career. Having helped business leaders wrestle with those decisions, and then implement based on them. You can get there in different ways, the skill sets that we bring in the corporate communication area; you can get to them through journalism, through liberal arts, through business training, through agency work. I’m less concerned about what has built the capability of the skills—initial capabilities—and more concerned about what kinds of engagements have you had that have put you with a business leader or as a business leader, in a firing line of making business decisions. Somebody who may have run their own company for a while, or may have been part of an agency business model would have had those kinds of experience. An attorney who may have helped counsel a business leader may have had those experiences, certainly just as much as an agency person or a PR person coming up through the junior ranks may have had. So it’s that engagement with business, with sort of difficult business decisions where you have to wrestle with different parties with tradeoffs. That to me is a core skill set, and that’s something I believe you develop on the job, and it can be at different jobs.
INTERVIEWER: How important is mentoring to the fostering of ethical decision making in the workplace. I guess you’ve sort of answered that question in that, if you have that experience of working with the people who are wrestling through the problems, that’s a form of mentoring isn’t it?
JORDAN: It absolutely is. And that’s precisely correct. We talked about the credo earlier at Johnson & Johnson and the most powerful moments for me. I can give you the individual stories about them, because they’re that emblazoned. They are the moments when you saw someone—usually more senior in the organization because that seems to have a special impact on you, or somebody from another part of the organization has really taken the ethics to heart. In a meeting, they’ve been bold in raising a question or making a suggestion based on the ethical concerns that our credo may have raised around a particular decision. And when you see that, when you see that played out a couple of times, it gives you the strength and helps your personal character develop in a way where you live up to the memory of what these other folks have done. It emboldens you to take the same positive actions in the future on behalf of the business by making ethical decisions moving forward.
INTERVIEWER: Ray, could you give us a couple of examples of times that you have been confronted with and dealt with ethical issues?
JORDAN: I’ll offer a couple of situations that stand out to me in terms of where I’ve seen our credo, our values system really come to the fore, and it’s dramatic in my mind. One was actually as I was considering joining Johnson & Johnson, I remember having a series of interviews and at one point an interview with a senior person at Johnson & Johnson, and I had asked the question about whether the credo entered into considerations for acquiring companies, which Johnson & Johnson does pretty regularly as part of its growth strategy. And he said, “Oh yeah, the credo. We have to assess whether we feel the companies that are joining can live up to the expectations of the credo and responsibilities of the credo.” And I said, “Okay, but are there any cases where you feel you’ve rejected an opportunity as a result of the credo?” And he had said, “Yeah, I can think of one of those.” And I said, “In that instance, with the exception of the credo, would the acquisition have been a good deal?” And he looked, and he paused, and he sort of looked down, looked up and he said, “It would have been a very good deal.” And it was the fact that he was so torn with that, which made me realize boy, this is real. That struggle, and seeing that struggle, the hair sort of lifted on the back of my neck, and I was in. It didn’t matter what the deal was, I was going to join this company. So that was one there. And delightfully as I was in the organization, I saw this time and again. One that I’ll mention was, we were looking at an issue that involved changing our distribution systems to eliminate, or reduce the possibility that products could be counterfeit. And it’s a little complicated, but what we had to do was essentially stop a customer from buying products from us, and then selling it to other customers. Because what would happen is in that course of selling it to other customers, counterfeiters could come into the network. So we ended up having to set up a mechanism where we validated, and would actually publish that certain customers were buying directly from us, so that if you were a hospital or something and getting your product, those customers that we certified were buying directly from us, you were safe. Now, it was great work and we went through rapidly, and I believe we really impacted things for patients and so on through that. What we discovered in this process, was that the customers who were buying from us and selling to other customers would commit to let’s say buying 100 of them, they might use 60 of them, but then they would sell the other 40 to somebody else so that they could get the 100 discount even though they didn’t actually use 100. So there was some stuff going on in that regard, in that market, and as we eliminated it, we were in the process of talking about this whole thing and somebody said, “Well you know the credo talks about our suppliers are entitled to a fair profit.” And we were like, yeah, but that business, that whole distribution business has been built on the expectation and the knowledge and the habit of being able to do these subsequent deals. So he said, “So what action are we going to take to treat our distributors fairly and make up for that difference?” To me that was just a very impactful question. We had done the right thing for patients by eliminating the thing, but here we were in the same meeting saying how are we going to make it up to another constituency that was in the credo. I was very proud of us in that particular moment. So there are a couple of cases for you.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you.