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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Building Company-Wide Accountability

Building company-wide accountability is a key element to making a business sustainable over a long period of time. Not surprisingly, all high-performing organizations are moving toward more empowerment, enlightenment -- and creating organizational accountability.

So what is accountability? To some, it’s something you make people do, as in “making people accountable.” But as long as you think accountability can be purchased, mandated, or motivated, you’re trapped in trying to create high accountability -- in a low-accountability workforce.

So let’s consider what accountability is, and how we can create an organizational culture that encourages it.

Be definition, accountability is being answerable or responsible for something. Accountability opens the door to ownership – not necessarily financial ownership, but certainly emotional ownership, where someone acknowledges they’re responsible for some aspect of the organization.

Accountability is not something you “make” people do – it has to be chosen or accepted by people within your organization. People must “buy into” being accountable and responsible. For many, this is a new, unfamiliar way to work. Most importantly: individual purpose and meaning come from assuming responsibility and accepting accountability.

With accountability comes a measure of discipline. Accountability is the opposite of permissiveness. Holding people accountable is really about the distribution of power and choice. When people have more choice, they are more responsible. When they become more responsible, they can have more freedom. That’s what company-wide accountability is all about.

So, how do you build company-wide accountability?

First, you stop doing things that undermine accountability—stop overseeing, legislating and micromanaging. Realize the power of reflective questioning, conversations, and collaborations.
Companies that can clearly identify, articulate, and execute their strategic goals are well positioned to be able to create organizational accountability. To effectively achieve these goals, companies must measure and manage actual business performance against these goals in a highly coordinated manner.

A six-step framework to build company-wide accountability is to:

1. Decide What’s Important (develop an authentic mission, vision, values, strategic position)
2. Set Goals That Lead (planning that includes measures, targets, projects)
3. Align Systems (streamline processes and resources so everything supports the goals)
4. Execute the Plan (each employee’s plans and activities support the goals)
5. Solve Problems Innovatively (get to root causes quicker, make more informed decisions)
6. Develop Leadership (step back, assess results, develop leadership from within)

Building company-wide accountability requires not only a framework or a systematic methodology based on proven best practices. It also requires technologies that make the framework practical to use and implement on a daily, weekly, monthly quarterly and annual basis. In addition, it takes a outside coach or strategic advisor to help you along the way to make it “stick” – to make it last. Finally, it takes an organization that is ready and able to accept accountability, the ownership and the freedom that comes with the new responsibility mindset.

Accountability and organizational change come through a new set of conversations. You can start having these conversations in your organization. Don’t wait - start today!

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