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
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
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