The recent MPs expenses saga has shown an interesting case study in common sense vs business processes. When judged by whether or not their expense claims were against the rules or not, hardly any MPs have been found to have acted inappropriately. The public derision to this excuse shows that following the rules is not enough, there should have been enough common sense to know that these claims were wrong, and should not have been made, irrespective of whether they were in line with the rules.
Now it seems a new set of rules will be drawn up – however, this is unnecessary. All that needs to happen is to retain the one rule, that expenses should be “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” incurred to perform their duties – and publish all expense claims on-line. Knowing that the information is publicly available will motivate the MPs to claim only what is appropriate, irrespective of the rules.
Openness within organisations is a key factor in behaviour, it motivates people to make the right decisions, whether in terms of executive pay (as we are seeing in the publicly owned banks), company strategy or engaging in difficult conversations with the public (eg big oil).
Complex and convoluted formal business processes, as well as the expensive enterprise software required to “enforce” these processes may be required for regulatory reasons, but do not forget how simpler, social solutions (such as putting all MPs expenses on-line) can generate better results, at a fraction of the cost.