Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rethinking the division of labour between business and government

We liked this interview with Richard Haass in the McKinsey Quarterly where he talks about the implications of the new division of labour between and government. As he says, "the lines between what is government and what is the private sector of business will get blurred.... CEOs, when they get up in the morning and look out through their window or across their desk, they are dealing with a range of constituencies that looks an awful lot like what a cabinet member might look at." The basic ideas align pretty much with our own work on corporate citizenship and global governance, but seeing them getting such prominence from McKinsey shows just how much the whole agenda is starting to be taken seriously by the business community.

We were particularly interested in his thoughts on how companies should adapt to this 'new normal', as McKinsey likes to put it. Haass promotes a new way of thinking about business-government relations - an expanded perspective that not only thinks in terms of lobbying and political action committees, but about what the changing division of labour means for the company as a whole. As he says, we need to, "think about government and government-related issues not as something that you have a small side office [for], some vice president for government relations who maybe calls a congressional staffer when he’s got an issue. But it’s something now much more intrinsic, and every person in the company—certainly the upper echelon of leadership—needs to take this into account, needs to think very hard about what is the proper, desirable role of government for that company. ... the entire issue of government, and the division of labor between the company and government, needs to be something that is thought through from the outset."

Haass is short on specifics in the interview, but it certainly sends a clear message that we need to go further in working through what the expanded set of political responsibilities might look like. And it definitely crashes a rather large plank over the heads of most of our colleagues doing research on corporate political action who seem to simply be blind to the bigger picture of what's happening around business and politics. Dirk's article reviewing recent books by Robert Reich and Naomi Klein explains a little more where we think some of the problems are in this respect. If even the McKinsey Quarterly is getting it, surely our fellow management researchers won't be too far behind. We live in hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have some thoughts you want to share about this post? We would love to hear them, so comment here (all comments will be moderated to prevent spam and random acts of advertising)...