Form not function

February 14, 2007

Following up on my reference to form and function in yesterday’s blog (number 200 since I started), this Alex cartoon from the Daily Telegraph gives a cynical but all too true portrayal of form over function.

For those who don’t know Alex, it’s worth getting hold of some of the collections, published each year in book format. The cartoon grew out of Thatcher’s period in power in the UK, and Alex is very much a product of that time. Focused on earning money and on making sure that everyone knows how successful he is, Alex epitomises a culture focused on selfishness.

Polemic aside, the cartoon makes an important point, not just about ethical auditing, but also about health and safety. I would argue that most health and safety regulatory environments are about preventing prosecution and reducing employer liability than they are about health and safety of employees. In the same way asking people direct questions about ethics, when they know the outcome is a nonsense.

Watch this space though, we are working an narrative based approach to ethical auditing, and an approach to health and safety based on ritual. Of course in a compensation culture and an environment dominated by lawyers, it will be necessary to keep the basics in place. I think shortly we will need two functions for H&S. One reporting to legal, the other focused on health and safety itself. For ethics and ethical auditing the problem is more complex, and we need monitoring as well as auditing. I think we may have a solution there and we are looking for some real cases to test some of the ideas out, feel free to get in touch!

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