Our Trend of the Week reminds me of one of Harvard Business Review’s Breakthrough Ideas for 2007. Marketing consultant David Weinberger warned that accountability at the corporate level has gone horribly wrong and has morphed into accountabalism, based on four related beliefs and practices. The first is that complex problems can be solved at the next level of detail – one more form, one more policy is all it will take. The second is that accountabalism assumes perfection – if anything goes wrong, it’s a sign the entire system is broken. The third is that accountabalism is blind to human nature – we’re masters of self-delusion, especially about the possibility of getting caught doing something we shouldn’t. The last is that accountabalism bureaucratizes responsibility – we remove the capability for individual responsibility and human judgment while claiming to increase it.
In the case heard by the Supreme Court, if requested investment changes were never made, the employer is certainly liable. But, if the result is a Sarbox-size cure in which we rely on one more procedure or one more form in the deluded expectation that “this time, we’ll solve it,” in the end will only make it worse. And, investors across the board will suffer.