andEs Corner: accountable capitalism – get rid of “them”

One of the things that has been milling round my mind over the last week has been the topic of accountability within the old world. Something that through globalisation and large corporations has seemingly vanished. The word’s “them” or “they” are used so often in the place of “we” or “us”. This was of course seen within the financial industry but, as I have given them enough stick recently, I would also like to show this time they are not the only guilty parties (although maybe they were the root cause).

What do I mean?

Well lets take a look at a world close to where I am: software development. If I do not give ownership of a SW component or module to a specific person or team that piece of code will be a disaster waiting to happen. Various developers all adding and changing bits of code – with nobody fully understanding how the code should work from end-to-end. Ultimately it will be full of bugs. Slow or unresponsive. Bloated. In short over time it will become useless or worse.

The same is true of any business. I can use one of my pet hates to explain this: the British rail “Service” now split into a myriad of companies and so ultimately removing any level of accountability or ownership. Talk to the representatives of the company running the train you want to take (which is late or cancelled) and they will blame the “them” running the rails. Or complain to them that there are no benches at the station to sit on to wait for your late train and they will blame the “they” running the station. This really shouldn’t have to concern me as a passenger: I bought the ticket from the train company so I ultimately have a “contract” with them. Whatever difficulties they have with the “them” delivering the rail service / running the station are not my issues. But good luck trying to argue this with Bob working at Customer “Information” on the platform at Manchester Piccadilly. In somebody’s excel sheet in the City Of London it may have made perfect sense to split up these parts of the company. In reality it simply doesn’t work.

Because of the simple fact of ownership.

The “thems” and “theys” are also present in single large companies, for example supermarkets when “they” didn’t deliver enough milk or in a chain of dry cleaners when “they” didn’t get your winter coat back yet; basically nobody is held responsible for the fact that now you are going to have to eat dry cornflakes or freeze on the weekend’s skiing trip. If companies are going to be successful in the new world I believe that ownership has to be pushed out across to each employee.

But first of all the **company** has to feel accountable.

If the world is going to change then it’s not only the corporate world that has to change but also government. The “anonymous MP concept” whereby once every four or five years at election time you get a leaflet through your door / see some posters on the street and maybe if very lucky get visited by the candidates has to vanish. I can see this working very well (not perfect but I am not asking for a perfect world) for example in our little village in Leopoldsdorf where I know our mayor and also many of the local council as they attend various social events in the summer and are easily accessible in the town hall during the week. Which is how it should be. I am paying them to work for me. So if they make a decision there is immediate and direct ownership of this decision. Of course there are different parties in the council so not all of the members will carry the ownership but it is also quite transparent as to who owns this decision or policy.

One of the major problems I see is that Austria is trying to move towards the English model – and the European Union model is also not helping with the EU politicians being even more faceless than Austrian national MPs. Infact the EU has introduced facelessness on a level rarely seen ANYWHERE in the world.

How this should work  i.e. the complete solution has to be the topic of a separate blog (especially as my ideas have to crystalise first)…


One thought on “andEs Corner: accountable capitalism – get rid of “them”

  1. My history teacher used to have a large sign on the wall saying: “THEY don’t exist”. Basically the same message as you article here. In history, the answer to a question could never be: “they”. Who discovered America? They did. Who started WWII? Well, they did. Who’s responsible for the credit crisis? They are. Who gave us swine flu? They did. I like the article!

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