>I have been guilty of disparaging accountancy. (For example, see here). I know I am not alone! Ever since Monty Python we have suspected that accountants all need a humerus implant. But, not so. Leicester accountants, Mark J Rees, have their own accountantjokesite with jokes such as:
The doctor comes to see his heart transplant patient. “There is good news. It is very unusual but we have two donors to choose form for your new heart.” The patient is pleased. He asks, “What were their jobs?” “One was a teacher and the other was an accountant.”
“I’ll take the accountant’s heart,” says the patient. “I want one that hasn’t been used.”
I’ve been reminded by Dee Hock this morning that accountancy is an old and honourable profession. In ‘Birth of the Chaordic Age‘ Hock traces the phenomenon of accounting to the tribal storyteller whose role was to accurately portray “their tribe as it was, as it is, as it might become, and as it ought to be”. Unfortunately, the primary language used for accounting for present day community is the language of mathematics and number. Consequently, the story is made up of measurements of what was, what is, and what might happen. The really important issues of what we ought to be is beyond the reach of accountancy speaking only the language of numbers.
Hock quotes H. Thomas Johnson, an economic historian, CPA, and former president of the Academy of Accounting Historians:
“The language of financial accounting merely asserts answers, it does not invite inquiry. In particular it leaves unchallenged the worldview that underlies the way organisations operate. Thus, management accounting has serbved as a barrier to genuine organisational learning… Never again should management accounting be seen as a tool to drive people with measures. Its purpose must be to promote inquiry into the relationships, patterns and processes that give rise to accounting measures.”
>I have just started reading a book called “The Art of Possibility” – which talks about us living in the “realms of possibility” as opposed to living at “Measurement central” governed by “survival thinking”. The authors, Zander and Zander write:
“In the realm of possibility we gain our knowledge by invention. We decide that the essence of a child is joy, and joy she is. Our small company attracts the label, “The Can-Do Company” … We speak with the awareness that language creates categories of meaning that open up new worlds to explore. Life appears as variety, pattern, and shimmering movement, inviting us in every moment to engage. The pie is enormous, and if you take a slice, the pie is whole again…
The action in a universe of possibility may be characterised as generative, or giving, in all senses of that world – producing new life, creating new ideas, consciously endowing with meaning, contributing, yielding to the power of contexts. The relationship between people and environments is highlighted, not the people and things themselves. Emotions that are often relegated to the special category of spirituality are abundant here: joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion.”
People and things increasingly have price tags. They are entered on balance sheets and they are counted in and counted out. (Horrible thing the Government, when they talk about the “head count” being affected by the promised cuts (aka redundancy)). The accountants can’t get their hands on what happens between people. The generation of ideas and life defies logic. We are in the world of mystery rather than accountancy when we focus on the relationship between people and environments. It is sheer magic the way the pie becomes whole again.