Make It More Lawful. Now, Isn’t That Awful?

Spark PlugI was reading a post about supply chains all over the world needing to beef up their risk management programs in order to lower the risk of sub-standard parts making their way into the manufacturing system. The “Supplier Ethical Data Exchange”, or Sedex, was mentioned as one of the ways of driving ethical business practices forward where suppliers were concerned. It immediately reminded me of SOX, or Sarbanes-Oxley, that great compliance engine meant to help accounting be more accountable, simply speaking. Of course, membership in the Sedex is voluntary and the organization is not for profit, but these and similar structures, legalized or not, are attempts at using structure to drive behaviour. Now, that works, of course, as any CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) expert will tell you, but it is not enough. If people still wish to focus on profits in order to satisfy the demands, or the perceived demands, of shareholders rather than the needs of all stakeholders, well, bad things tend to happen.

We have witnessed major product recalls that happened because of sub-standard or defective parts being discovered in finished products. Even a big name like Toyota, with a reputation for efficiency and trustworthiness, fell victim to defective parts.

Did these events affect the way companies went about their business? Did attempts at legislation and setting up more organizations alleviate the problems? No! Many of the people running the big companies are still focused on shareholder value to the exclusion of others. And so, we can expect more product recalls. We can expect major equipment failures to happen at the worst possible times. We can expect harmful foods and pharmaceuticals to continue to be consumed by the millions.

What happens then? More legislation. More organizations. Frantically, or perhaps showing that they are frantically, trying to stop the colon cancer when the real problem is lack of fibre in the diet. Making things more lawful. And seeing them become more awful.

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