On My Honour…

6 02 2013

It’s no surprise to regular readers that I’m a long-standing member of the Scouts. Scouts make a promise as they’re invested into the movement. It’s what sets us clearly apart from hockey teams and other youth organisations.

On my honour, I promise...

On my honour, I promise…

But honour is a difficult concept to get over to youngsters (and many adults, for that matter). I once  heard it wonderfully encapsulated as:

It’s when you do the right thing, in the middle of the forest, when you know nobody is watching, and they would never know if you didn’t. Picking up someone else’s litter was the example in that particular case.

Personally, I think I’d go a little further. To me, it’s doing the right thing when you know people are watching… and doing it will in some way cause you yourself potential harm. Financial loss, shame, physical danger.

Like facing up to your mistakes when to not do so would cause another to take the blame. Like keeping your word, when you said you’d do something, but doing it unexpectedly turns out to be unpleasant.

I have a friend who is getting in shape for an up-coming half-marathon. She posted her training time the other night and said it was a “bad run”. I retorted that the only bad run is the one you didn’t do… as I sat in my home blogging.

Tonight, it was raining in White Rock. Thinking of my own words, I donned my trainers and went for a run in the drizzle. It was a run that occurred, and by my own definition therefore – good.

As I promised, I’ll post my numbers… good or bad.

3.6km, 24 minutes 232lb.

Well, one number went down… just not the one I’d have preferred.

Sometimes large organisations struggle to act with honour. In order to be profitable they need to pay market rates to staff, and often that is well below the “give a toss” level. Being mindful of this, they use process and procedure to protect them from variable quality in their representatives. That’s why you have to sign stuff when you hire a car, for example… because the company can’t rely on the staff actually checking the car properly before they give it to you. Instead, they place the onus on you, the customer, and attempt to protect themselves with paper.

A total cop out, since most people who are hiring cars are in a rush to get somewhere or wouldn’t know a potentially serious fault on a car merely from giving it the cursory glance they are allowed if it were to hit them on the high street, reverse and repeat the process.

Yet ultimately, as I recently read in “Black Swan” by Nassim Taleb, the larger a company gets, the more fragile it becomes. It loses touch with its roots, its original customer values, the things that enabled it to grow. Instead it relies more and more on market presence. On its brand. Its good name. The one thing that it has left in the hands of process-engineers and pimply youths. Potential suicide. In this day of electronic media and Flash Mobs, it behoves a company well to pay close attention to how it treats customers. It is better in the long run to absorb the small negatives from the few dishonourable customers who might return a car with less than clean carpets than to seriously piss off the honourable ones who you THINK have done something to your car.

Hell hath no fury like a technophile scorned…

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