Scenario 1: Your teenage produces their report card for your review. The C’s, D’s and F’s glare out at you. Just before that moment you had reviewed their credit card. Just as glaring as their grades were the amounts that had exceeded their established spending limits. Your credit was at risk as you had co-signed for the card.
Until this moment of reckoning your teenage child had enjoyed the prestige and perks of being considered among the elite students, gifted with an IQ far above the norm, a quick wit, liked by all.
And when you ask them about their actions and their results, they reply:
When you've been in this world for 13-14 years, as I have been, the issue of retrospect and what you should have done is a really futile activity. I was right 70% of the time. But I was wrong 30% of the time, and there were an awful lot of mistakes in these, what, 13-14 years.
(I'm imagining the look on my dad's face.)Scenario 2: Your annual review reveals a number of performance issues. In particular, these performance issues raise doubts about your abilities. You have failed on a number of issues and these have put at risk the entire enterprise, including the incomes and careers of your colleagues. Until now, you have profited from the illusion of your being a wise and sage counsel. Your prestige rankings had been off the chart.
And when asked about your lack of performance and even their impact on those who depended on your brilliance, you reply:
When you've been in this company for 3-4 years, as I have been, the issue of retrospect and what you should have done is a really futile activity. I was right 70% of the time. But I was wrong 30% of the time, and there were an awful lot of mistakes in these, what, 3-4 years.
How would you respond as the parent?
What response would you expect from your manager/boss/leader?
This is much the same scenario we saw happen with the testimony of Alan Greenspan before Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission yesterday. Mr. Greenspan testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission about the recent, still ongoing, credit crisis and its impact and sources of origin, with this snappy reply:
When you've been in government for 21 years, as I have been, the issue of retrospect and what you should have done is a really futile activity," Greenspan said. "I was right 70% of the time. But I was wrong 30% of the time, and there were an awful lot of mistakes in 21 years," he added.Really? That’s it? There’s nothing to learn? Looking back and connecting the dots from decisions made by the Chairman and the Fed, and allowed, by Congress to their outcomes is a futile activity, a really futile activity...
Granted, there are lots of decisions, big and small, made by players big and small, that led us to where our economy is today. Congress as our elected representatives was to oversee his activities. No one twisted anyone’s arms to live beyond their means, buy investments they failed to understand, embrace irrational exuberance, incentivize short-term goals that not only were short-sighted but...ultimately, in many cases, fraudulent.
On the other hand, when we allow our leaders to avoid responsibility or even re-assess their decisions in order to understand and avoid repeating them in the future we insure they will be repeated and we participate in a grand illusion of accountability. Call it Accountability - Kabuki.
(The July 1858 production of Shibaraku at Edo Ichimura-za theater, from Wikipedia.)
Unfortunately, calling it that disparages the grand tradition of kabuki. It also disparages accountability in its role sustaining our community, our country, our form of government.