Being responsible is one thing. Being accountable is something else. To be responsible is to accept ownership of an action or end result. In an organization, it is typically communicated through the use of a job descriptions or delegation of a work requirement.
Accountability is different. It is more personal. In an organization, it means embracing the challenge of negotiating expectations with customers, learning how to meet their expectations, creating and sustaining work processes for meeting expectations, and being transparent and timely in keeping all stakeholders informed and supportive of progress achieved and outcomes produced.
Historically, managers were more concerned with assigning work responsibility, monitoring and controlling work activity, and evaluating results. However, customer product and service demands have evolved. Contemporary customer demands are much more fluid, complex and ambiguous. Therefore, organizational stakeholders have to be more flexible, innovative and timely. The challenge of defining these demands, learning with customers, and achieving satisfaction with customers have made accountability management a central concern from management communities.
How are organizational stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, etc.) to be held accountable as a servant to the marketplace? Providing job descriptions, assigning and monitoring work activities are insufficient. These governance activities are based on the assumption managerial knowledge and experience are valid regardless of ever-changing marketplace dynamics and customer demand. Contemporary business enterprises operate in the moment with customers, not on the product or service expectations of the past.
Accountability management is about installing the management processes, measurements, communication tools, and culture needed to constantly support customer and stakeholder learning. It is about creating and sustaining the trust, ownership, commitment and discipline needed to define opportunity and capture potential through timely collaborative thought and action. Accountability focuses on institutionalizing self-governance as a way of life and a way of conducting business in a flexible, yet consistent manner.
To implement and use accountability management requires a management community that is dedicated to asking questions, continuously improving, and using honest, factual communications to promote trust, process discipline, predictability, interdependent ownership and growth. The following is a sample of the questions managers should be using to invite stakeholder participation and instill accountability as a way of life.
- How well do stakeholders understand their roles?
- How do stakeholders embrace and effectively use daily management meetings to maximize potential?
- How do process owners use process mapping to develop the understanding needed to leverage product and service potential?
- How are measurements used to align performance thinking, communications and behaviors?
- How are performance management communications facilitating trust, constant learning, and a balanced approach to solidifying the present while positioning for the future?
- How are management processes used to maximize work effectiveness and efficiency?
- How is process discipline promoted and instilled?
- How are measurements used to maximize potential?
- How is culture created and sustained as a catalyst for promoting trust, collaboration and interdependence?
- How are all stakeholders encouraged to be Developmental Leaders, collectively committed to being servants of potential?
- How are marketplace image and branding supported by stakeholder communications and action?
Over time, these questions and resulting stakeholder collaborations become how organizational stakeholders think and act. Everyone becomes accountable for defining business enterprise potential and achieving results. Everyone wins. The business enterprise succeeds in the present while being positioned for the future. As importantly, organizational stakeholders use the business enterprise to earn security, constantly renew their confidence in themselves and others, and reinforce their commitment to creating value for the common good.
INNOVA Group is a business consulting firm, in business since 1986, specializing in Leadership Development, Project/Process Management, and Organization Development. http://www.innovagroup.com