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Increasing Accountability for Managers

November 11, 2008

Accountability is vital to organizations for many reasons. Lack of true accountability causes excessive cost, both economic and psychological; de-motivation in those who work for the organization; dissatisfaction in those served by it, and suboptimal performance in general.

Accountability can afford greater freedom for Managementship, or deny and constrain the individual’s ability to perform effectively. In this sense accountability can be positive or negative; both are important.

Negative accountability occurs when there is interference with or blocking of the free exercise of positive action. Positive accountability occurs when one is answerable to another for the provision of work; husbanding of resources; and the delivery of a service, product or set of results that can be measured in terms of quantity, quality, cost and time. Positive accountability should operate at all levels in organizations. This is distributed accountability or, indeed, distributed Managementship.

Authority and accountability are closely related concepts. The exercise of relevant authority is a critical element of accountability.

Popular wisdom has it that teamwork involves shared accountability. But this is a common mistake. Teamwork is a shared endeavor, not shared accountability. A team is led by an individual who is personally accountable for the team results.

Accountability assumes a proactive and conscious commitment to the purpose of an organization by an individual. It also presupposes clarity, transparency and participation, which enable contribution to that purpose.

The 10 Point for Management Accountability

A manager must be accountable for the following:

  1. Deciding who comes into the team, negotiating and managing a budget for that team, and being held to account for its expenditure.
  2. Deciding who will work where, in which jobs and when.
  3. Securing employee commitment to attain the relevant goals and providing them with the means they need to deliver their goals.
  4. Giving constructive feedback and deciding upon individuals’ performance and appraisal ratings, agreeing on their training and development needs, and ensuring that these are acted upon.
  5. Ensuring that the members of the team meet all their obligations and, if necessary, changing the goals, obligations or team members, as appropriate.
  6. Providing solutions when confronted with problems. Accountability entails finding a new solution.
  7. Making change happen.
  8. Achieving results from peers and colleagues over whom the manager does not have direct control.
  9. Achieving results with and through external agencies, such as consumers, customers, suppliers and shareholders.
  10. Setting timelines and establishing goals, which then need to be achieved in terms of quality, quantity and service.

10 Indicators of a Lack of Accountability – A Checklist for Management Teams

There are several signs of faulty organization design:

  1. Unclear purpose and priorities
  2. A lack of timely and appropriate decisions
  3. Duplication of work
  4. Too many ineffective meetings
  5. A culture of long and excessive hours at work
  6. Managers working in their team members’ decision space
  7. Multiple, small authorization steps, leading to “organizational treacle” that slows down decisions
  8. Quantitative grading systems that generate unnecessary jobs (and therefore structure) to provide administrative “promotions”
  9. Undue loss of good people
  10. Top management thinks there is a capability problem.
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