Parallel Decision Making

Can’t help seeing parallels between NotW Phone Hacking (#hackgate) affair and the BP Macondo disaster.

It’s about management communications. Clearly multiple layers of management are there to share the load, not to communicate upwards (beyond reporting) every piece of information and decision with which they are involved. They are employed to “deal with it”, and good upper managers delegate to them for that reason.

To some degree as well as the efficiency aspect of the division of labour, there is an element of legitimate “plausible deniability” (*), sharing responsibilities too. Hierarchically lower staff cannot shed responsibility simply by communicating upwards. The buck stops with the responsible. In normal running, things can’t really work any other way. The question is how to spot when things are going wrong, going wrong on a scale that might effectively “bet the whole company”, and raise the communications accordingly. (Same in the Met, same in NewsCorp, same in BP)

Continuing the Parliamentary Committee in real time :

Tom Watson – interviewing Rupert Murdoch – is unfairly insisting he answer “why” questions about decisions made or not made in the operating companies. Murdoch is very patiently trying to answer them, but clearly his son is better placed to respond. Watson should focus on questions of “what” Rupert knew and when, before pursuing why. I agree with Alan Sugar tweeting!/Lord_Sugar that the guy is pointlessly trying to humiliate the old man …

Much better line of questioning by Phillip Davies MP to James Murdoch. And Alan Keen hits the nail on the head with the question of what kinds of thing do have to be reported upwards … and James Murdoch comes back with the scale of the business and delegation issues (above) … hope this line gets pursued further.

Damian Collins too puts is finger on the communication culture question – people communicating what their manager “want” to hear – Rupert correctly pointing it it’s a manager’s job to see through that. Of course the conspiracy theorists want to find all sorts of pre-meditated strategies and cover-ups, but experience says, these will be communications cock-ups, that need to be understood and solved.

Oh and here we go … protester attacks Rupert with a plate of shaving foam … and his wife clocks the perp in the face. Bloody shambles. Well done to all for continuing after only 10 mins break …

And Louise Mensch too hits the right note – culture inured to long-standing illegal blagging and hacking of “fair-game” people in public life (as old as competitive free journalism surely), overstepped into the domain of innocents and victims …

I honestly don’t believe either of the Murdoch’s knew anything or were kept from knowing anything they expected to know, at the time.

Rebekah Brooks coming up …

Now Tom Watson’s questions much better directed, at what we might expect the editor to know – but again hindsight confusing him as he asks questions about the period before she was editor as well.

So much focus now in the use of PI’s and covert means. See separate post on legitimacy.

(*) The illegitimate equivalent of plausible deniability is “wilful blindness” – deliberately ignoring the availability of information you should know. There is a strange sense in the world of social media that because everything can be communicated everybody “should” know everything, whereas reality still demands a “need to know” approach. Clearly, Murdoch is embarrassed to admit there was indeed a good deal more he should have known.

Post Note – the implications about larger and smaller out-of-court settlements – all would have been nominally “confidential” sure, but some people – with Max Clifford on their side – were clearly much better at negotiating the value of any given settlment. The NewsCorp agreement to settle would always have been on legal advice that it was case they would be likely to lose – the actual amount would then have been a negotiation, which probably bore little relation to any “damage” in the content of the case. Again I suspect Murdoch junior is being pretty honest.

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