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Managerial Responsibility and It

Managerial Responsibility and It

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Published by: dilsiam on May 10, 2012
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Managerial Responsibility and IT 77
Chapter V
Managerial Responsibilityand IT: How Does the Useof Information TechnologyChange the Way ManagersHave to Think and RealizeResponsibility?
Bernd Carsten StahlUniversity College Dublin, Ireland
The purpose of this paper is to analyse the relationship between management, responsibility and information technology. ft is shown that there are structural similarities between the three terms that  facilitate addressing normative issues in the management of IT through the use of the concept of responsibility. That means that responsibility seems to be a perfect choice for dealing with ethical,moral, and legal problems arising from IT. However, there is also another aspect, the fact that the useof IT can pose a threat to managerial responsibility ascriptions. The paper aims at clarifying the natureof these threats and opportunities. The knowledge about them should help managers maximise their chances of successfully discharging their responsibilities in IT 
Copyright © 2003, Idea Group Inc.
78 Stahl
Responsibility is probably one of the most important and defining notions for managerial work.Every manager is responsible for his or her company, department, etc. More specifically, she hasresponsibility for the quality of the product or service. The responsibility also extends to employees,customers, and the general public. Furthermore, most managers would probably say that they feelresponsibility for their personal lives, their families and a general responsibility as a member of societyand a citizen of their state.This short list shows that responsibility is a many-facetted notion containing numerous roots andmeanings. The different sorts of responsibility have always been prone to conflicts and are an old sourceof moral and legal problems. Nowadays the use of computers and information technology has added awhole new order of magnitude to the potential for responsibility but also to its possible problems. Thepurpose of this article is therefore to investigate how the use of information technology influences themanger’s capacity to assume responsibility. Not surprisingly we will come to the conclusion that theincreasing use of IT opens new avenues for responsibility but at the same time poses new threats.Threats and opportunities, however, are not equally distributed. Opportunities are often clearly visibleand frequently talked about. IT is a tool that allows greater measures of control and of knowledge aboutthe organisation. Managers can respond better and quicker, which facilitates the discharge of responsibility. The threats, on the other hand, are frequently hidden in conditions and assumptions of ITthat seem so natural to us that they are rarely discussed. Management has to take these threats seriouslybecause they can endanger the legitimacy of the use of IT and in some case even the legitimacy of management. In this paper we will demonstrate that IT promises to facilitate management work. Goodmanagement, however, that looks at more than just the immediate financial bottom line will in manycases become harder to achieve than it used to be.In order to give this demonstration, the paper will address several points. In a first step we willshow that management and the notion of responsibility are closely related on several levels. In thefollowing section, we will introduce information technology and its impact on management on the onehand and responsibility on the other hand. In a last section we will discuss the feedback between thethree terms and take a look at the pros and cons of managerial responsibility as they result from IT.
In this section we will give a brief overview of the notion of responsibility, followed by adefinition of management. We will demonstrate that management should pay attention to ethical mattersand continue to show that management and responsibility are closely related for several reasons.
Managerial Responsibility and IT 79
Even though most managers would probably say that they know their responsibilities and thatthey have no problem seeing what exactly the term means in their day-to-day work, the notion isanything but clear. The term originally stems from the judicial realm, where it stands for the answer thatthe accused has to give to the judge. This points to the etymology of the word, the answer, which can befound in several languages such as the English
the French
or the German
(cf., French, 1979, p. 210; Etchegoyen, 1993, p.
Lenk, 1991, p.64). This stem of the notion pointing towards the “answer” is one important clue leading us to possiblemeanings.Apart from the purely formal property of aiming at an answer, responsibility has several otherpossible meanings. It can stand for causality as in “the storm is responsible for the damage” (cf.,Johnson, 2001, p. 174). In most cases, however, the use of the term wants to convey something morethanjust causality. It is generally used to ascribe something to somebody, which brings us to thedimension of responsibility. These are the subject (who is responsible?), the object (what is the subjectresponsible for?) or the instance (who does the subject have to answer to?) (cf., Bayertz, 19
,p. 1Sf;Ilöffe, l995,p. 23; vanLuijk, l99O,p. 41). Responsibility has the purpose of ascribing the object of responsibility to the subject.This in turn refers to the communicative structure of responsibility. The ascription of responsibility can have several meanings. It can stand for the construction of a causal relationship asmentioned before. Related to this but different is the meaning of responsibility at which we take a closerlook here, the ascription of moral judgements to someone or something on account of the results of theiraction. This process of ascription can in turn be realised in different ways. It can be done reflexively asin “I take full responsibility for the actions of the company” or transitively as in “you are responsible forthe actions of the company.” There are also two different temporal aspects, which have to be taken intoaccount. Responsibility can be attributed
for facts, actions, or deeds that lie in the past or
ex ante
for facts that are still to come. One last distinction that needs to be mentioned is the fact that there aredifferent sorts of responsibility apart from causality. There are legal responsibility, moral, task responsibility and a whole host of others. For the purposes of this article we will concentrate on themoral aspect of responsibility, which is the most comprehensive type since it comprises at least someaspects of all the other types.The last detail of a theory of responsibility that needs to be discussed here is its objectives. Whenwe ascribe responsibility to someone or something this can be motivated by several different ideas. In aclassical, Old Testament sort of viewing things, responsibility can be seen as a means for retribution orrevenge. This may in many cases still be the prime motivation but few ofus would admit to it, andespecially in management contexts it does not seem to be relevant. Apart from a theory of responsibilityas a sentiment (Wallace, 1996) its most generally agreed-upon objective is the ascription of consequences with the express purpose of producing

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