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Apples, Pears or Fruit?

I got mesmerised not by the news, but by an article (at https://www.inc.com/heather-r-huhman/how-to-recruit-top-talent-3-trends-youll-need-to-know-for-2018.html) giving me ‘Big Changes Are Coming to Talent Acquisition in 2018. Here’s What You Need to Know‘, you see, there is nothing wrong with the article, it is sound and it makes a lot of sense. Two things jumped out. The first was actually the second issue “Know your ABCs: AI, blockchain, and chatbots“. It took me back to the 80’s where aspiring new IT Turks had their little vocabulary of things you need to know and mention. So that ABC would be a decent testing soon enough. It is a decent approach, yet soon after the thought was given we will be finding the highly desired ‘almanac of answers‘ soon enough and without technical representation at such an interview, the HR director could end up feeling slightly too lonely for that interview.

It was the first issue that was a larger concern. Perhaps concern is the wrong word. The need to contemplate the mention ‘Focus on adaptability‘, you see that train requires more thought and depending on your point of view, you feel right, wrong or decently confused. I always focussed on flexibility, they are NOT the same. Here the dictionary was of some assistance. As an example it gave me “rats are highly adaptable to change“, so do you want a firm full of rats? They tend to jump ship when things get dicey or too challenging. It was not the example I wanted to use, but I will happily adapt my flexibility accordingly. There is a second part; the option ‘capable of bending easily without breaking‘ is much better, but here I do not completely agree with the adaptation of ‘easily‘. I believe that a flexible workforce gives strength, at times adaptable applies in the same way, but there are differences. When you are flexible you can always resort to your earlier ‘shape’, and flexibility is presumed to be immediate. When you adapt to the new environment you change your shape, so we can argue that you become a new person, instead of merely a more versatile one. This is an equally wrong view as there is no given that an adaptable person cannot adapt back to his earlier self, in the application of flexible versus adaptable it is merely implied.

Another source gave me: “Adaptability and Flexibility, “Indecision is the key to flexibility!” The world of work is changing at an ever increasing pace so employers actively seek out graduates who can adapt to changing circumstances and environments, and embrace new ideas, who are enterprising, resourceful and adaptable“, here I disagree. You see, the flexible workforce has its own set of decisions to make, but they tend to have an everlasting changing atmosphere in where to score their Key Performance Indicators. This has been nearly forever the situation in customer service and customer care positions. That is from a software point of view. I will agree that such changes would be much less likely in the banking sector and that conservative placement is actually changing rapidly nowadays. From my point of view in these places would fare better with a flexible person than an adaptable one. If only from the presumption that adaption takes time and flexibility does not.

In all this there it is not same academic debate and in many cases it is basically the same from any point of view. Yet another voice gave the example that one person is talking about oranges, the other one about pears and they all agree that the fruit is peachy. It sounds nice but once we see that certain steps are linked to KPI values, the discussion could impact someone’s career to a larger degree and that is definitely a larger problem for all involved.

In another example we see: “that focuses on a child’s ability to adapt to new situations, improvise, and shift strategies to meet different types of challenges“, it is a view I very much agree with, yet here too there is caution, because flexibility is also set to parameters. It is more clearly shown when we add: “Video games can help improve Flexibility by allowing kids to practice their Flexibility skills while in the midst of a fun and immersive game“. Yes this is true, yet there is a hidden catch here. The hidden catch is that a game has software and hardware. In some cases a game could be played in more than one way, so set this child on a game like Minecraft on a console (PS4 or Xbox One), let the child play for two hours each day for let’s say 4 days, then on the fifth day give that child the same game on a PC or Tablet. Now you get to see the interaction of flexibility and adaptability, the flexibility to comprehend and adjust to another format seems easy enough, but the person adapting from a controller to a mouse/keyboard or a touch panel of a tablet is another matter. We need both and now the two parameters are shown more widely apart.

Yet this is not the only example and even as we can clearly see the interactions, the needs and the optional issues with flexibility and adaptability, the true test is not in a video game, it’s within ourselves, just like with any other new technology, the flexibility to allow adaptation and the adaptability we have to grow as we engage with new and evolved systems, as well as our environment as it changes as well. Blockchain technology is probably the best and clearest example for all involved parties. Parties on several levels are seeing its usefulness and as Mobile G5 is starting to arrive the list of benefits will increase, faster and larger. Moreover, as companies push in a more global way through clouds, Blockchain technology might be the only one that is least likely to hamper growth, even allow for Wild West growth. Yet this push has two opponents. The first is the marketing hype, as the ‘solution’ is oversold, more and more optional implementers will have ‘additional‘ questions and as no clear answers are given, opposition to the new technology will rise. In addition those evangelising ‘be first or become obsolete‘ players are not helping matters because this is a sales pitch that can never be proven, in fact we have seen how some who did not initially race towards the e-commerce side have not ended up dead (or last), in fact they benefitted from the mistakes and costs the early adopters had and avoided loads of hidden traps. In opposition there are those shunning Blockchain. Some seem valid (for now), much more of them are seemingly doing this in fear of loss of control. The latter is more likely to be seen in data and data management as the tools to manage, edit and audit these sources are vast and far away from today’s reality and today’s usage. Yet it does work (as far as it can be observed) and the part that stops some people is to view, depart and give the new format the go is the fear of being left behind with inconsistent data down the track (in case things fall over). Even as the sources can see how powerful this data could be, especially as data is collected for market Research, the fear shown so far seems to be overwhelming. Especially when we look at established brands and their lack of pace and space to upgrade what is into what could be. The people in Market Research merely need to look into the missed options by letting SurveyCraft be vultured, without clear evolution and system continuance, to see how a market was lost to a much larger degree than the players are willing to admit to.

And here we see part of the issue pointed out. We see this also (at https://globaljournals.org/GJMBR_Volume11/2-Impact-of-Employee-Adaptability-to-Change.pdf), in a paper called ‘Impact of Employee Adaptability to Change towards Organizational Competitive Advantage’.

On page 2 we see: “Organizations are now well equipped to switch according to the circumstances that will be sustained the operations in the long run”. When we see this in light of: “Studies by Bishop (1994) and Bartel and Lichtenburg (1987), proved that highly skilled workforce payback to organization in the shape of higher outputs and enhancing adaptability towards change”. Yet in this light ‘enhancing adaptability’ is not the same we see nowadays. Then it was in light of certain values and certain requirements that the masters of their workforce required. When the bottom line is set in light of a mere quarterly growth the short term requirements tend to have a very different impact. It was discussed in 2009 by Daniel A. Mazmanian and Michael E. Kraft in ‘Toward Sustainable Communities’. With: “Applying sustainability criteria to everyday matters of public policy, business management, and personal consumption is fraught with conceptual and moral hazards”. It requires a rare combination of long-range foresight and short- term adaptability, yet that proper usage is as I personally see it no longer ‘adaptability’ it is ‘flexibility’ through our contemplation of proper acts. Proper acts that tend to be absent of morality that the powers to be employ. Their limited care is towards their stake holders, their shareholders and their own bonus within the legal option available to them. The example of PwC in BT Italy and Tesco are merely two of several. The fact that we heard: “PwC has escaped official censure over the Tesco accounting scandal, after the UK’s accountancy watchdog closed its investigation into the auditor’s approval of the grocer’s flawed financial statements”. It is not because there is no evidence, but because it shows that under the most grey of versions of events that PwC cannot be pointed to as a culprit, the fact that no law can be proven to have been broken is central in this. We can argue whether their setting was ‘did we uphold the law’ or ‘will any of this stick to us’, are two very different statements. The flexible person will contemplate ‘did we uphold the law’ and do whatever he/she can without breaking it, which is a valid position to have. Yet the adaptable individual who will be set behind ‘will any of this stick to us’ is more questionable, yet is it wrong?

That is in my view the difference. I do admit that adaptable and flexible might be interchanged here, unless you accept that ‘Flexibility is the Thinking Skill’, when we do that the setting is no longer interchangeable. This is where I find myself now. Are we talking apples, pears or is it all fruit? I am no longer certain because the needs of Business Intelligence have changed. It is not about translating the results into ‘a story’ and presenting that. Not transferring the numbers and what they mean, but what it could be ‘seen as’, which is not the same thing. In this the bosses need adaptability.

Yet what are you adaptable or flexible?

And when you learn you were not one, you were the other, will you listen to your inner voice?

So what gives?

You see, I believe that our lives are in transit and to a larger extent our working lives are changing. There has been a push for a new kind of leadership in corporate circles. This has happened for a longer amount of time, but now we see more and more advertisements looking for people with an adaptable nature. The next example is not uncommon; it is appearing in more and more job offers. For example: “First and foremost, you will be a high calibre Business Systems Accountant with a positive, pro-active and adaptable demeanour”. What is central in all this is that the articles around us and there is an increasing focus on ‘adaptable’. This is not a fab or a hype. As I personally see it, it is the sign of the times. Every company is looking deeper and deeper into what is possible. As accountants, General management and members of boards are trying to hold onto their 20% growth they are more and more thrust into the world of Black Letter Law. UNSW had an interesting opinion piece (at https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/business-law/bias-and-%E2%80%98black-letter%E2%80%99-judge-who-dyson-heydon). You might stare at the fact that it is 2 years old, but the issue is that the change has taken 2 years for people to be more and more thrust into the reality of that cold light. With “The Howard government appointed Heydon to the High Court in 2003 following a speech that was billed as his “job application” for the upcoming vacancy. In it, he set out his vision for the ideal judge. The judge should interpret the law “according to the books” and do so “incorruptibly”.” In addition we see: “Heydon called out the antithesis of the black-letter judge: the “activist” judge. The activist judge decides cases not by reference to established legal principles, but to further “some political, moral or social programme”. The activist judge uses cases to right social wrongs in accordance with the individual judge’s worldview.

I believe it is not entirely so the case, even though the phrase is not incorrect. You see, some look at the letter of the low, some look at the spirit of the law. What was that law meant to achieve? As our vocabulary has changed certain standards, the standards have shifted on, but the law did not. An example could be seen in ‘decimate’, which now means “to destroy a large portion”, yet in the old days, when it was originally used (by them Romans), it literally meant “to kill one-in-ten”, which came from the Latin word decimates, we still use this in the form of decimal, and another example in this case is ‘divest’, which originally meant “undressing as well as depriving others of their rights or possessions”, yet not until quite recently when it became “selling off investments”. I see this as a dangerous change, you see when the laws were made there was a different meaning in some cases, and consider that Australia still has the Crimes Act 1900, such changes could be a little more perilous then others. The importance of the spirit of the law becomes more and more evident when we consider certain implications. Even as we cannot fault the direction of those who embrace the black letter law, the impact is slightly too large for comfort. Laird Kirkpatrick gave us more dangerous examples in his book ‘Black Letter Outline on Evidence’, here we see: “in 2003, the UK changed the statutory definition of hearsay, and in Regina v Chrysostomou (mark), 2010. L. 942 (Ct. App. Crim. Div. 2010), the court of appeal concluded that drug enquiries found on the defendant’s cell phone were not hearsay, apparently rejecting the earlier view.”, that is the application of black letter law. So how often will these changes benefit the proper setting of the spirit of that law as it was initially set into law? So now take this headline: ‘The UK accounting watchdog today dropped a misconduct probe into Tesco’s auditors PwC, saying there was “not a realistic prospect” wrongdoing could be proven’, why was the investigation halted? Why was proving certain matters not realistic?

I would love to speculate here. You see, I think that in the black letter of the law PwC did not break any laws and did nothing wrong. In this Tesco inflated itself for well over £250m, and got fined £129m because of it. Even as some PwC members are still looked at, I believe that to sizzle away. I believe that PwC decided to go Black Letter Law and did EXACTLY what the law told them to do, even as the spirit of the law is nowhere near those actions. This is the age of Adaptable management and the question is will this be a repeat at BT Italy? It is too early to tell, but if we believe the Financial Times, who gave us: “The fraud involved various methods of hiding and minimising operating costs at BT Italia. Some were complex, but others were as basic as moving expenses into the “capital expenditure” column normally reserved for building and acquiring assets. None of it was picked up by PwC, BT’s senior management or its audit committee, which has regularly reviewed the global services unit, which included Italy, since an earlier accounting debacle in 2008-09.” (at https://www.ft.com/content/c633d452-5c99-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220).  I reckon that there will be additional questions at some point. Yet the one thing that was never brought to light in case of Tesco was how matters were missed. If you pay £13M that year (including £3M for consultancy), how was there anything left that was not looked at?

If we know from TV that you never say something specific to your attorney, so you say ‘I bought a new carving knife as a present for my mother in law, is that OK?’, instead of ‘my mother in law is rather clumsy, so I got her a super sharp carving knife and I have been lacing her drinks with aspirin so she could potentially bleed to death next Sunday, am I liable if something happens?

I reckon that in the application of accountants similar issues apply. So you would say: ‘We made changes in division X to look better, can you focus there to make sure we are all up to scrap’ instead of ‘for the love of god, do not look at division Y where we inflated the whole bloody lot’. So as the accountant was not ‘aware’, they missed it. It is just a thought, but how far off am I? Consider that the meaning of Nice changed from ‘foolish’ or ‘silly’ to ‘pleasant‘, it does not matter which version I am, I feel perfectly safe with either.

Yet in the spirit of the views that I have, I am slightly damning to the black letter adaptable workload of management, they could undo a lot more than we saw and felt in 2008.



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