It’s a bad time to be any part of the Volkswagen system.
With the news of 11 million Volkswagen vehicles using software specifically designed to deliver false results for emission testing, I think that I, like so many others, were taken aback with the news.
Volkswagen has always had this strange allure. The vehicles are unique and innovative and, to be honest, there have been so many times that I just wanted to have a Beetle. Even last evening, driving through town, we saw an old VW bus. I wanted one of those too at one point but settled for a minivan.
With the news, the CEO Martin Winterkorn fell on his sword and resigned from the company.
Now we sit back and see what the ultimate fallout will be. The stock market is reacting strongly in a negative fashion and there are now talks about fines and compensation to the owners of these vehicles since their ride is now essentially now worthless for resale.
It makes a great deal of political sense for the CEO to resign before the owners mount a coup and fire him.
I think they need more swords though.
One CEO doesn’t make this kind of decision and implements it by himself. Time will tell and this is just speculation, but it may not even have been his idea. It may have arisen from somewhere in middle management. “I’ve got this great idea.” How many times in any organization do we hear of initiatives happening in this way? Those who ultimately approve it have to go to the wall with their support even in the face of initially supporting a bad decision. Swords are needed for those who originated this idea.
Even middle management can’t make it happen alone.
In this case, it was software written and placed in the vehicles to pull off this scheme. There would be supervisors who keep an eye on its development and testing to make sure that it works as promised. Swords are needed for them.
Then there are the people who made it work. Actual coders who wrote the software to make it happen. As a society, we have a disdain for people who write virus and other malware software. Is this any different? Being a whistle-blower may not be the most attractive option but knowing that you’ve contributed to something so heinous can’t possibly sit well with them. Order more swords.
Many professions have governing organizations that ensure that their members adhere to the rules and standards of the profession. Certainly we know of doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. who have violated the rules and have paid the price at varying levels by rulings from their organization.
Is it time that programmers have such an organization? As this incident so clearly shows, society relies so much on the integrity of programmers and those who direct their efforts. Should their accountability go beyond making money for their organization with no concern for the society at large?
Then, what happens to these people who have fallen on their swords?
Imagine their resumes:
- I follow instructions well
- I fooled a treehugger
- I made decisions for a company with no regard for society
It doesn’t make me feel compelled to invite that person to work in my company.