>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.”