#WTFMSD: Taking responsibility

There might have been a time when someone would have resigned their job today following the WINZ kiosk security flaw.

The error that led to easy access of confidential Ministry files, and so much more, is so glaring that an immediate resignation is warranted.

More-over, the absence of such a basic level of security suggests the warranted resignation is not by a technical employee but management. 

An IT friend of mine said the complete absence of security had the hallmarks of organisational failure; of a project team without good management, probably without a dedicated security expert, or a security check.

But that’s detail. This error hardly requires an explanation, or the promised investigation. It just needs someone with moral fortitude to say ‘it happened on my watch, so its my fault’. Today that did not look like CEO Brendan Boyle or the (absolutely furious!) Minister Paula Bennett – as they announced an investigation.

Here’s why people in politics rarely resign.

  1. Our relativistic culture. It’s hard to hold anyone responsible for anything. Easiest to blame the system, or processes. Strangely enough, the more management we get, the harder it is to describe where, when, and by whom, decisions are made and actions are taken.
  2. Self-justification. We all, naturally, see the best in ourselves, and explain away the worst. We’re more likely to hunt for blame elsewhere than see our own responsibility.
  3. Employment. Quite simply, these days who wants to lose their job? It’s even tougher when your career is in politics, or civil service. These sorts of mistakes, or controversy, can poison whole careers.

The irony is that early resignations work in your favour. You gain respect by taking responsibility, and being prepared to lose your job. Early resignations happen before anyone is sure how something happened, so no one thinks the resigning person is in the wrong (and this assumption sticks, even if they are subsequently found to have made an error). These factors make it very easy to only be demoted, to find other work quickly, or even be reappointed to the same position later.

Despite the benefits of taking responsibility, personal ego and welfare are far stronger drivers. Which is why I predict that if anyone does finally resign over this mess, it will be much later, and after very much fuss.

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