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Sense and Simplicity

Liberty and Common Sense, Or the Lowest Common Denominator? Gill Cardy Rails Against a Surfeit of Rules

 

The problem with discussing organisational culture, and asking “how we keep the emphasis on culture as we enter the next phases of the UK financial cycle?”, is that culture isn’t always a good thing.

Organisations have a culture.  They have their way of doing things.  They have their management style.  They have their key performance indicators which focus on specific metrics. 

Just because you don’t like the culture, or their way of doing things, or their management style, or their key performance indicators doesn’t mean that the company in question doesn’t have a culture. 

It just has one that you don’t like. 

And bizarrely, to follow that discussion with one about “future-proofing” regulation rather gives the lie to any real concern about culture. Let me explain…..

Radio Sense

I was listening to The Bottom Line, a BBC Radio 4 programme in which Evan Davis interviews a panel of business leaders.  The topic gets a very personal response from the people concerned, and a much longer and more thoughtful discussion than most radio interviews provide. 

A recent episode, on the role of the business leader, discussed how a group of businesses were managed – and, in particular, how they had variously “turned their organisations upside down”. 

For starters, it seems, Timpsons doesn’t have a head office.  And the Managing Director of Isuzu Truck (UK) gives every single customer her(!) home phone number in case of problems or complaints.

And that was where it got interesting. Timpsons employs ex-offenders, but when asked whether they had any ‘issues’ with staff with criminal records, Mr Timpson said that that they had experience of the occasional situation where a person is tempted to solve their problems by taking money out of the till – but no more than anyone else without a record.  “But that won’t persuade me to run the business to try and stop that at the expense of giving freedom to the rest.”

Meanwhile, Nikki King from Isuzu Truck (UK) noted how many rules and regulations are created by businesses just because one person is doing something wrong.

Regulatory Straitjacket

So, I think we have to ask the question: what would things look like without regulation, or without the prohibitive rules which can admittedly stop occasional bad things happening – but at huge cost to industry, to innovation, or to an organisational culture which would have done the right things anyway, but which is now stifled in a bizarre and costly regulatory straitjacket? 

If the FCA has been reassessing the balance between ethics and rules and taking seriously Mr Wheatley’s bedtime reading (Ethicability, Roger Steare) let’s hope that it does in fact spend some time considering whether too many rules take away our ability to decide what’s right?

But this review of the interaction between ethics and rules must apply to both the regulated as well as the regulator.  And that means that the regulator cannot hide behind rules either.

If something has happened which is just plain wrong, then perhaps they would do well to make some ethical decisions that, whatever the rules actually say, or their culture dictates, they should do what is right, by those they regulate and the investors that we are all here to serve.

 

 

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