I’m not going to rehash all of the details behind Penn State University’s cover-up of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse allegations and convictions – other outlets are doing a fine job of it already – but if you seek an example of an organization risking their long-term sustainability by focusing on short-term financial goals, look no further.
“Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.”
Adding to the stated principle, the organization philosophy incorporates how the organization should function and how certain decisions will be prioritized. Every organization has a philosophy, whether stated or unstated, that it demonstrates with its actions.
The leaders and flagbearers for any long-term sustainability efforts are going to be at the management level – what management deems critical is what direct reports should also deem critical. Sure, front line management and operation will be the ones who handle most of the heavy lifting, but without the support of an organizational philosophy being supported and demonstrated by management and staff those heavy-lifting efforts will begin to fade.
To further emphasize the demonstration by management, whatever philosophy and activity is prioritized by management will be the philosophy that the rest of the organization will demonstrate as well.
Unfortunately, by deliberately covering up the child abuse by Jerry Sandusky, Penn State football and its flagbearer Joe Paterno demonstrated for the entire Penn State football organization that usurping “doing the right thing” for ignoring the issues of criminal activity and rights violations and hoping they would go away was the Penn State way of doing things.
Penn State Football, the school, and the athletic department can state all they want for the media that Mr. Sandusky acted alone and the rest of the organization was unaware, but with all of the evidence presented the organization has clearly demonstrated what truly mattered to it.
The rights and privacy of a number of young boys was less important than the continued fueling of the financial locomotive that is Penn State football. This is in stark contrast to what the law states, and the law has demonstrated this lack of alignment by charging Jerry Sandusky with his crimes.
Penn State football officials were confronted with a question of priorities – the violated rights of a few young boys under the officials’ watch versus keeping a very talented coach that made the team successful and further fueled the locomotive – and they made the decision based on expediency (it takes less time and money to cover up the violation than to fire the coach and possibly risk having extra football game losses) as opposed to the long-term sustainability of the program.
As a result of their ill-advised decisions, Penn State football’s long-term sustainability may now be nil.