'I....do swear that I will truly and honestly demean myself in the practice of a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Western Australia according to the best of my knowledge and ability.'
- Oath taken on admission as a legal practitioner.
The Report on Investigation into Loss of separation between Airbus A330 VH-EBO and Airbus A330 VH-EBS near Adelaide SA on 20 September 2013 referred a number of times to the air traffic controllers 'accepting jurisdiction'. For example:
'The controller accepted jurisdiction for the track of the eastbound 747 at 1204:58.'
'Accepted jurisdiction.' What a great way of saying 'The controller accepted authority to act.'
I had a boss in the corporate world who used to ask when he wanted a report on the progress of a client engagement: 'Who owns that relationship?'
One way of the decision maker defining her issue amidst the noise of opinions and competing self-interests is to ask herself: 'Do I have the authority to make a decision that will advance my boss's Widget?'
Do I have the power? The authority? The jurisdiction? Where can I find the source of that power? In my contract of employment? A policy? What elements need to be in play to trigger my power to act? If I don't have the power - who does so I may 'offer them jurisdiction'.
Jurisdiction is a fine word for another reason.
The controller was required to make decisions. Not at their whim and discretion and subjective opinion. The origin of the word 'jurisdiction' is the Latin jur - law - dictio - saying.
To have jurisdiction - decision making power - requires the decision maker to speak the law. To give effect to a higher power. The controller's job was to serve and animate the will of a higher authority.
Or put another way, the controller's job was not to meet their needs - but the needs of their boss's Widget.
'Demean' is a word not often used, and when it is, it is in a pejorative context. It is about as unfashionable as the word 'obedience'.
Law graduates seeking admission to practice used to have to swear to demean ourselves to the Law. To humble ourselves. To put ourselves beneath. To serve.
I think this concept may be what organisations are grasping for when they speak of being 'committed to...'. They mean - demean. To make everything else secondary.
When we truly accept the jurisdiction for our Widget - to 'speak its truth';
When we undertake to demean ourselves in the building of our Widget - put our egos aside and serve it;
Then we liberate ourselves from so much of the distractions, self-interest and trivialities that sabotage good decision making.
Too much? Too heavy? Too...demeaning?
Then don't accept the job. Or quit.