The following six principles form the foundation for instilling accountability within your organization. Together they form a practical understanding of accountability, the transforming effect it can have on an organization, and its essential role in creating significant business results.
1. Accountability is a Statement of Personal Promise. Accountability is both a promise and an obligation to deliver specific, defined results. Accountability, as we define it, does not apply in an abstract way to departments, work groups, or entire organizations. Accountability applies to individuals and their personal promise that these functions will deliver the agreed results. Accountability is first and foremost a personal commitment to the organization and to those that the organization serves.
2. Accountability for Results Means Activities Aren't Enough .Everyone in an organization, from the CEO to the janitor, has some piece of the business and a corresponding set of results which are theirs to achieve. Distinguishing results from activities requires a shift in traditional thinking, built on an awareness of why we do what we do, and what activities we need to focus our attention on.
3. Accountability for Results Requires Room for Judgment and Decision Making. If you're not allowed to use any judgment or discretion on the job, if you're told to follow the rules no matter what, if no decision is up to you, then your boss can only hold you accountable for activities. You can be held accountable for doing what you're told, but you can't be held accountable for the outcome.
4. Accountability is Neither Shared nor Conditional. Accountability agreements are individual, unique, and personal strategies. No two people at the same level in an organization should have the exact same accountabilities. Separating each person's accountabilities can be challenging, but clarity results from the struggle to eliminate overlaps.
5. Accountability for the Organization as a Whole Belongs to Everyone. Every employee's first accountability is for thinking about and acting on what is best for the organization, even if doing so means putting aside one's individual, functional, or departmental priority. The most successful organizations expect and allow every person to be of practical assistance in realizing the organization's goals.
6. Accountability is Meaningless Without Consequences. In an accountability agreements, consequences need to be negotiated. Negotiated consequences that are personally significant to the employee in question are an essential element of accountability agreements and are fundamental to forging a fair deal. This is a key step in forging an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship with one's employer.
BOTTOMLINE: Organizational accountability eliminates the tendency to make excuses and shift blame. When employees make clear and specific commitments for their own work, entire organizations become aligned and achieve specific measurable results.
(SOURCE: Shaun Murphy, Ph.D. and Bruce Klatt, M.A. at Murphy Klatt Consulting. Adapted from a chapter of their book, Accountability: Getting a Grip on Results (2nd Ed.1997).