罗杰•马丁是多伦多大学罗特曼管理学院院长（Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto），他曾经入选最优秀的50位商业管理思想家和全球最具影响力的10位商业教授。他著有《修复游戏：泡沫，倒闭，以及资本主义可以向NFL学习些什么》（Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL）一书。他是汤森路透（Thomson Reuters）和黑莓手机生产商RIM的董事。珍妮弗•瑞尔是罗特曼管理学院（Rotman School）德所特斯整合思维中心（Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking）的副董事，同时也是《修复游戏》一书的编辑。
Defenders of the corporate world argue, as we have, that the problem is not so much with individual executives as with a system that creates an unwinnable game. Executives are asked to focus on increasing shareholder value. This is a profoundly difficult task. Shareholder value, as reflected in stock price is a measure of other people's expectations. And while these may be based in part on the fundamentals of the business, they are also fueled by macro-factors, systemic biases and, well, hype. It's hard for executives to influence share price in the short-term through the real, difficult work of improving the company. So, they work on investor expectations instead. They provide guidance, they hype the stock, they undertake foolhardy acquisitions and divestitures, all to spur upward momentum in the stock price.
It is easy to argue that they do all of this due to personal weakness and greed. After all, we've created a system wherein most of the compensation executives receive is in the form of stock-based incentive compensation. When the stock price goes up, so does their compensation. But the reasons for focusing on the short-term stock price rather than long-term real growth are not limited to personal greed. In fact, these executives are doing what we as shareholders have demanded that they do.
The board of directors, our representative as shareholders, provides all of that stock-based incentive compensation. And by providing that incentive, the board is explicitly telling the executives what matters above all else -- and that is the stock price. When boards provide stock-based incentive compensation, they issue a direct instruction to work first and foremost on raising the stock price from the current level. It is not about improving the company, not about thinking long-term, not about bettering the world. If an executive with considerable stock-based incentive compensation focuses on anything but raising the stock from its current level, he or she is being insubordinate to the board that provided that as the central incentive. It is not for the executive to say: "They gave me this big stock-based incentive but they really don't mean it. They don't really want me to attempt to do what would be necessary to reap the rewards of this incentive." It is not about being craven; it is about obeying your superiors. In short, we have built a system of incentives for executives focused on raising the stock price at the expense of all other goals. Why then should we be surprised when executives act in accordance with this system?
Does that mean we should excuse the behavior of individual executives and let them off the hook when ethical lapses occur and when greed runs rampant? No, absolutely not. We want and expect executives to behave well and live up to a high ethical standard. We want insiders to shine a light on illegality, as Sherrin Watkins did at Enron or Jeffrey Wigand did in the tobacco industry. But it is important to recognize just how hard a task we are setting for these individuals. It is a very high bar when we ask executives to be genuinely insubordinate in order to be moral. Would we not be better off to design a system in which the explicit incentives encourage long-term thinking, value creation and contribution to society? The challenge is to do away with our current incentives and create new and better ones.
Roger Martin is dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. He has been named one of the top fifty management thinkers and ten most influential business professors in the world. He is the author of "Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL." He serves on the Thomson Reuters and Research in Motion boards of directors. Jennifer Riel is Associate Director of the Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking at the Rotman School and editor for Fixing the Game.